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 Indian Express had on January 7 reported that 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 visit India to be chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations. Johnson took this decision in view of the fresh national lockdown in his country, as it responds to the new, more contagious mutant strain of the novel coronavirus.
Sources said that it will be difficult to invite any foreign leader at a time when countries are still dealing with the pandemic. This is also too short a notice for any foreign leader to be invited. Also, it could be seen as an undiplomatic gesture to invite someone else, after a leader has refused to attend the celebrations.
In 1966, no invitations were sent out due to the demise of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on January 11, 1966 in Tashkent. The new government headed by Indira Gandhi was sworn in on January 24, 1966 – only two days ahead of the Republic Day parade.