Due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, the Centre has decided against having any foreign head of state or government as the chief guest for this year’s Republic Day event on January 26, news agency PTI reported. This is the first time in 55 years that India is not going to have any chief guest for the Republic Day parade.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “Due to the global Covid-19 situation, it has been decided that this year there will not be any foreign head of state or government as the chief guest for our Republic Day event.”
The central government was thinking on these lines after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed “regret” that he would not be able to be chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations. Johnson took this decision in view of the fresh national lockdown in the UK due to the new, more contagious mutant strain of the novel coronavirus.
The last time India did not send an invitation to any head of state was in 1966 due to the untimely demise of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The new government headed by Indira Gandhi was sworn in on January 24, 1966 – only two days ahead of the Republic Day parade.
The Republic Day celebrations have been truncated this year on account of the pandemic. Last year’s Independence Day celebrations had also been scaled down.
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.