Weeks ahead of the Republic Day celebrations, with the cancellation of the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit, it may be the first time in 55 years that India is unlikely to have any chief guest for the Republic Day parade. Boris Johnson’s decision comes amid the spread of the new, more contagious mutant strain of the novel coronavirus.
This will be the first time in at least five decades that the Republic Day celebrations, will not have a chief guest. The last time the parade did not have a chief guest was in 1966 when Indira Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister on January 24 after the demise of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on January 11. In 1952 and 1953 also, the Republic Day parade did not have a chief guest.
One official said the decision was taken on account of multiple reasons. “We did not want to put any foreign dignitary in an awkward situation,” the official said, underscoring that a last-minute acceptance of India’s invitation could be potentially embarrassing for the invitee back home as the head of state would be seen as a replacement.
However, some media reports suggest that the Indian-origin President of Republic of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, is likely to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade on January 26. But there is no official conformation on this as of now.
An invitation to be chief guest at India’s Republic Day is a special honour for the visiting foreign dignitary. New Delhi has been weaving strategy with hospitality while deciding on the chief guest. The choice is dictated by a number of factors – strategic and diplomatic, business interests, and geo-politics.
Past similar incidents
– In 2013, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said could not come due to a communication issue.
– Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, came for the Republic Day celebrations.