India will not invite any foreign dignitary to be the Chief Guest at the upcoming Republic Day celebrations, the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.
Addressing the weekly press briefing, Anurag Srivastava said the decision was prompted by the global pandemic which has intensified in several countries.
"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 the Republic Day event," said Mr. Srivastava.
The announcement comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled his visit to India to attend the Republic Day parade as the Chief Guest.
India had invited Mr Johnson to be the Chief Guest at the event but the UK leader dialled Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 5 and cancelled the trip in view of the outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom.
This will be the first time in decades that India will not host a Head of Government or Head of State during the Republic Day parade in Delhi.
The last time such a situation arose was in 1966 when no Chief Guest was present at the event which was held days after the demise of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent and the death of nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha in an air crash.
Foreign leaders have graced the Republic Day parades every year barring 1952, 1953 and 1966. The then Indonesian President Sukarno was the first chief guest to grace Republic Day in 1950.
In 2020, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro was the chief guest.
In 2018, the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leadership comprising 10 heads of states were present at the Republic Day parade.