No foreign dignitary at India's Republic Day event this year
Publish- January 15, 2021, 01:10 AM
S Kumar - UNB Delhi Correspondent
For the first time in over five decades, India will not have a foreign leader as the chief guest at its Republic Day parade.
“Due to the global Covid-19 situation, it has been decided that this year there will not be a foreign head of state or government as the chief guest for our Republic Day event," Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told the media on Thursday.
The last time India did not invite any foreign leader was in 1966 due to the sudden demise of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, following which Indira Gandhi was sworn in as the country's first female PM on January 24 that year, two days ahead of Republic Day.
India had invited British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for this year's Republic Day parade, but he cancelled his visit on January 5 amid a surge in Covid cases at home.
"The (British) 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 spokesperson for Downing Street had said.
In December, the British PM accepted India's invitation to attend the parade.
India honours January 26 every year, the day on which the country's Constitution came into effect in 1950, replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document and thus, turning the nation into a newly formed republic.
However, this year, India has decided to scale down the Republic Day parade in the wake of Covid. The distance of the parade has been cut down to half -- from 8.2km to 3.3km. The spectator strength has also been brought down to 25,000 from 1,15,000.