It had been widely anticipated that India would go ahead with the annual Republic Day parade without a chief guest after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the dignitary invited this year – cancelled his planned visit to India to focus on countering a recent surge in Covid-19 infections in Britain.

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Sohini Sarkar

UPDATED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:47 PM IST

India on Thursday confirmed that there won’t be a foreign head of state or government as the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day celebrations, only the fourth time this has happened since independence in 1947.

It had been widely anticipated that India would go ahead with the annual Republic Day parade without a chief guest after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the dignitary invited this year – cancelled his planned visit to India to focus on countering a recent surge in Covid-19 infections in Britain.

Hindustan Times had reported the government decision on Monday. On Thursday, the formal announcement was made.

“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,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a regular news briefing.

The only other years when a foreign chief guest wasn’t present at the Republic Day parade were 1952, 1953 and 1966.

This year’s parade will also be shorter, involve fewer participants and only a fourth of the usual number of spectators will be allowed at Rajpath because of Covid-19-related restrictions.

A 122-member tri-services contingent from Bangladesh will be part of the Republic Day parade, only the second time foreign troops have joined the annual showcase of military might and the country’s diverse culture. In 2016, a French contingent had participated in the parade.

Bangladesh has been invited to participate in this year’s parade because the two countries are commemorating 50 years of diplomatic ties this year. The Bangladeshi tri-services contingent was flown into New Delhi on a C-17 heavy-lift aircraft of the Indian Air Force.

“This is testimony to our ties, which are forged in shared sacrifice. This year will be historic in our relations as we are also commemorating the 50th anniversary of [Bangladesh’s] liberation war,” Srivastava said.

During a virtual summit of the prime ministers of the two countries in December, New Delhi and Dhaka agreed to jointly organise several activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the liberation war in India, Bangladesh and third countries.

“A number of events and activities are being planned and these will celebrate the legacy of our shared history,” Srivastava said.

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