Top African leader on shortlist for RDay chief guest, decision soon
India may have finalised its chief guest for the next Republic Day, two people familiar with the matter independently said, and it is most likely someone from Africa, perhaps South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. The announcement will probably be made shortly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, and perhaps on Twitter, one of the people added, asking not to be identified.
This person said there was a shortlist of four India was working on and that President Donald Trump of the US had never been on it, although verbal, informal invites were extended to him .The White House confirmed recently that President Trump would not be making the trip to India for the January 26 Republic Day parade on account of other commitments, but the first person insisted that a formal invite had never been sent to the US leader.
The chief guest will be a leader of global stature and from an important partner country, this person added.
A second person said, also on condition of anonymity, that the idea was to get someone from a region unrepresented in terms of Republic Day chief guests for the past few years. The chief guests in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk of Bhutan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, UAE Crown Prince Mohhamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the leaders of the 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations
That leaves only South America and Africa unrepresented. The second person said that the leader is most likely to be someone from Africa, perhaps Ramaphosa.
There was no confirmation on this from the ministry of external affairs, and a government official would only say that “an announcement will be made at an appropriate time.”
India has been trying to build its presence and relationship with African countries. It has stepped up its outreach to African countries since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power in May 2014 to boost ties with the resource-rich continent and counter China’s growing influence there.
The 55 countries on the continent also have a crucial say in India’s quest to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. India has extended 152 lines of credit worth almost $8 billion to 44 African countries for developing agriculture, infrastructure, public transport, clean energy, irrigation and manufacturing capacity. The outreach has included visits to several African states by President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu this year that raised the profile of bilateral ties.