The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday announced that there will be no foreign leader as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations due to the global situation arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. This will be the first time in over five decades that India will not have a chief guest at the 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 head of government as the chief guest for our Republic Day event," MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.
The decision was taken after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's last-minute decision to cancel his visit due to the spread of a mutant variant of the coronavirus strain in the UK.
India had invited Boris Johnson as the Republic Day chief guest and he accepted India's invitation, calling it "a great honour". However, earlier this month, the UK Prime Minister cancelled his India visit due to the pandemic that has escalated in the UK following the mutant variant. In a statement, 10 Downing Street said that Boris Johnson expressed his regret to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he will be unable to visit India as planned.
Earlier in December, the UK PM had said that he was â€śabsolutely delightedâ€ť to be visiting India to attend the Republic Day celebrations, and that he looks forward to â€śdelivering the quantum leapâ€ť in India-UK bilateral relationship.
After Boris Johnson cancelled his visit, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor questioned whether India should cancel Republic Day celebrations altogether owing to the pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of Thursday, the number of people in India who were infected with the new UK variant of the coronavirus had reached 109.
With inputs from PTI