As the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday morning postponed his visit to India where he was the chief guest for the Republic Day Parade the Indian government is looking for another foreign dignitary for this occasion.
The tradition of inviting a chief guest on Jan 26 started in 1950 itself when President Sukarno of Indonesia graced the occasion. The following year King Tribhuvan of Nepal was the state guest of honour. In 1952 and ’53 no foreign dignitary was invited. But in 1954 the King of Bhutan Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was invited. The following year the Governor General of Pakistan Malik Ghulam Muhammad graced the occasion. Since then, barring 1966, foreign dignitaries have always been present on the occasion.
On January 11, 1966, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had died a day after meeting President Ayub Khan of Pakistan at Tashkent in the then Soviet Union. India and Pakistan had just fought a war in August-September 1965 and the USSR played a key role in brokering peace between them.
In 2018 the Narendra Modi government invited all the 10 ASEAN leaders for the occasion.
Incidentally, Boris Johnson’s decision to cancel his trip coincided with the third lockdown imposed on January 5 in the United Kingdom.
Johnson had on Dec 15 last accepted the invitation from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That was the time when a new strain of corona virus had started spreading in the United Kingdom forcing many countries to cancel all flights to and from Great Britain. This included India too.