No foreign chief guest at R-Day as Covid-19 surges

Updated on Jan 19, 2022 04:50 AM IST
  • India had invited the leaders of the five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to be chief guests at the celebrations, though no formal announcement was made in this regard by any of the countries.
New Delhi, India - Jan. 18, 2022: ITBP daredevil squad during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade, at Rajpath, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
New Delhi, India - Jan. 18, 2022: ITBP daredevil squad during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade, at Rajpath, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
By, New Delhi

The Republic Day celebrations on January 26 will go ahead without any foreign leader as a chief guest, the second year in a row that India’s signature event has been affected by the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

India had invited the leaders of the five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to be chief guests at the celebrations, though no formal announcement was made in this regard by any of the countries.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus in the past few weeks and recent violent protests in Kazakhstan, which resulted in the death of more than 220 people, were factors that went against the participation of the Central Asian leaders, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

A diplomat from a Central Asian state, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the leaders of the five states would be unable to participate in the Republic Day celebrations in-person. The diplomat added that the Central Asian states and India are now focusing on a virtual summit of the leadership of the six countries to mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, though a date for this is yet to be finalised.

The possibility of looking at an alternative chief guest was ruled out due to the paucity of time, the people cited above said.

Also read | Covid-19 forces massive cut in R-Day ceremony

Last year, India went ahead with truncated Republic Day celebrations without a chief guest after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off his visit at the last minute because of the rapid spread of a strain of the Coronavirus in Britain. It is extremely rare for the Republic Day celebrations, seen as a high point in the country’s diplomatic calendar, not to have a chief guest.

Prior to 2021, the last time the celebrations didn’t have a chief guest was in 1966, when Indira Gandhi was sworn in as prime minister on January 24 after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri on January 11. There were also no chief guests at the celebrations in 1952 and 1953.

Though no formal announcements had been made regarding this year’s chief guests, Turkmenistan’s foreign minister Rashid Meredov had hinted at it while participating in the India-Central Asia Dialogue in New Delhi on December 19. Meredov had said in his opening remarks at the meeting that the dialogue would be a “key event in the preparation process for the upcoming Central Asia-India Summit in January”.

India’s move to invite the Central Asian leaders was a follow up to the invitation extended to the leaders of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to be the chief guests at the Republic Day in 2018. The Central Asian states are perceived by India as part of the country’s extended neighbourhood and their importance has increased following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

In recent years, India has stepped up its efforts to boost connectivity and trade with the strategically important region. At the India-Central Asia Dialogue, the six countries pushed for concerted action against all terror groups and stressed that Afghan soil must not be used for planning or executing terror attacks. They also pledged to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now