This will be the first time in over five decades that the Republic Day celebrations would not have a foreign dignitary as the chief guest
India has decided to celebrate Republic Day without a foreign guest, Union ministry of external affairs said on Thursday. The decision comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled his visit due to the spread of mutant COVID-19 virus in the UK.
"Due to the global COVID19 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," Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson of ministry of external affairs said.
The Republic Day celebrations are seen as a high point in India’s diplomatic calendar. This will be the first time in over five decades that the Republic Day celebrations would not have a foreign dignitary as the chief guest.
India had invited British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade later this month. United Kingdom foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who visited India in December, had announced that Johnson has accepted the invitation to visit India.
However, on 5 January, Johnson cancelled his planned trip to India stating mounting COVID-19 cases at home. "The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi..., to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned," a Downing Street spokesperson said.
"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 spokesperson said.
A statement from Modi’s office said Johnson “reiterated his thanks for India's invitation for him as the Chief Guest of the forthcoming Republic Day celebrations, but regretted his inability to attend in view of the changed covid-19 context prevailing in the UK. He reiterated his keenness to visit India in the near future."