New Delhi: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no foreign guest will be present at the Republic Day parade on January 26, 2021, something that has been one of the highlights of the annual event celebrating the country’s diversity at the heart of Delhi.
Announcing the development, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “Due to the global COVID-19 situation, it has been decided that this year there will not be a foreign head of state or head of govt as the chief guest at our Republic Day event.”
This is the fourth time in history that no foreign guest will be present at the Republic Day. The last time it had happened was in 1966, and before that in 1953 and 1952.
India had extended an invite to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be the guest at the Republic Day who had accepted and confirmed that he will be coming. But earlier in January 2020, he had informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi of his inability to come due to the new strain of COVID-19 virus that had emerged in the UK.
On January 5, 2021, the UK PM had cancelled a planned trip to India, citing the need to oversee the COVID-19 pandemic response at home. “The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.
“In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the Prime Minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus,” the spokeswoman had added.
The choice of Republic Day guest showcases New Delhi’s closeness with the country. PM Modi had invited US President Barack Obama as the chief guest in 2015, which sent the message of growing ties Delhi Washington partnership. In 2018, all members of the ASEAN grouping were invited, creating history since never before 10 heads of govt/states were present at the parade together.