By Anirudh Singla
To designate a Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebrations is a mammoth task. Post the intensive deliberations that involve strategic, economic and political interests, certain names are shortlisted and with security concerns as an accomplice, he is selected. With the country’s early choices reflecting India’s pro-socialist outlook, the likes of countries in the USSR arose as a statutory dormant seed.
With intricate changes in foreign policy that led to India seeking to set a global imprint, good amount of thought was given to its selection of guests.
Traversing through different time domains
India hosted Indonesian president Sukarno as the chief guest on its first Republic Day, in 1950. Successively, the kings of Nepal and Bhutan were called owing to regional proximity and to secure continuing cordial relationships. The Republic Day parade in 1955, though, is distinguish remembered. For the very first time, governor general of Pakistan, Mr. Malik Ghulam Muhammad was invited as the chief guest for the event. This was despite growing hostilities between the two nations.
Queen Elizabeth of the royal house of Britain came down to India in 1961. Also, the 1960s mainly saw the presence of Cambodia and soviet countries such as Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Newfound interests clouded carefully thought choices as Tanzanian president Julius Kambarage Nyerere and Sri Lanka’s first woman prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike were invited in the 1970s. The Indian Government sought to build up ties with more African Nations. Some new faces from Latin America such as Mexico and Argentina also found recognition.
The guest list in this span found itself traversing on a proportioned geographical distribution. Leaders from Scandinavian nations and island nations like Mauritius and Maldives were invited over the years. Trinidad and Tobago’s Indian-origin Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday accepted to be a part of the celebrations in 1997.
Pursuant to its economic interests and military foot holding, Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev and Russian President Vladmir Putin were solicited as guests in the 2000s.
Shedding light on various issues
With a sumptuous outburst of globalization that affected the world, there were a few modifications. The guest list set up precedence of political interest and foreign policy over cultural affiliations and interest. This was owing to changes in terms of international relations, political infringement and hostile tensions in the middle-eastern region.
Access to more of conventional energy resources in the dwindling aspect of natural resources and better connectivity in traversing through Central Asia was sought. So, Islamic Republic of Iran’s president Mohammed Khatami was chosen to be the guest of honour at the Republic Day function in 2003.
Basing its decisions on the “look east policy” that somehow acted as an antithesis to China’s overtly truculent policies, East Asian countries were invited to grace the stage for the first four years in the second decade of the 21st century. Strong bilateral relations with Japan has triggered hosting of huge foreign investment inflow in India that has led to strong infrastructural boosts and growth in both retail and defence sector. Barack Obama was the chief guest in 2015, becoming the first US president to do so in over 60 years. By gracing the event, Obama had reaffirmed United States’ intentions to secure bilateral relations and further strengthen them.
It was also the first Republic Day parade that took place after the Modi Government took over in May 2014. France found its fifth representation at the Republic Day celebrations with its president Francois Hollande attending the event in 2016.
The current scenario
As we saw, Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi (UAE) was the chief guest this year. The Emirati ruler ship responded with the Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest building located in Dubai (UAE), being lit up in the colours of the Indian National flag.
History has shown us that dynamics of trade volume, pursuant interests in foreign policy and economic basis are all integral factors that are considered when the title of the Chief Guest of the Republic Day is accorded.
Even the slightest of Government actions or their invitees hold a sizeable amount of importance in the country’s affairs.