With heads of states from 10 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as chief guests on this Republic Day, New Delhi is all set to host its 69th Republic Day parade at Rajpath on Friday. This will be the first time that heads of states from 10 countries will be guests of honour at the Republic Day parade. The leaders will be in the national capital from January 24 to 26, during which they will participate in the ASEAN summit as well on January 25, which is due to be held at the Taj Mahal Hotel.
Here is a list of dignitaries who have attended the Republic Day event in the past:
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan: In 2017, the chief guest for the Republic Day parade was crown prince of United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke protocol to receive him at the IGI Airport in New Delhi and greeted him with a hug.
François Hollande: French President François Hollande was accorded the honour of chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 2016. This was for the first time a foreign military contingent marched with their Indian counterparts at Rajpath. One of the oldest regiments of the French Army, the 76-member strong 35th Infantry Regiment showcased their marching skills, while the 48-member ‘The Music of the Infantry’ ceremonial band played native tunes for the audience.
Barack Obama: In 2015, he became the first US President to attend the Republic Day celebrations. Obama and First Lady Michelle were received by PM Modi. The US government had raised concerns over the length of the programme at the Rajpath as it was thought to be a potential threat to POTUS’ security.
Shinzo Abe: The fifth East Asian leader since 2010, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his second visit to the country in 2014, this time as a chief guest at the Republic Day parade. With this visit, Abe became the only Japanese PM to visit India twice.
Yingluck Shinawatra: In 2012, the first women Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, visited the country as chief guest at Republic Day parade. The visit fell on the same year as the 20th anniversary of ASEAN. 2012 was also the 65th year of the commencement of diplomatic and bilateral ties between Bangkok and New Delhi. Both sides inked mutual cooperation agreements in many fields.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: The 2011 chief guest at the Republic Day parade was Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who came on a state visit from January 24 to 26. Yudhoyono and then PM Manmohan Singh talked at length about ways to enhance bilateral ties. They also announced a new agreement, the Indonesia – India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (II-CECA), which was to enhance the achievement of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, an MEA statement said.
Lee Myung Bak: South Korean President Lee Myung Bak was invited as the guest of honour at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 2010. Myung Bak, accompanies by wife Kim Yoon-ok, was in India from January 24 to 27 during which they visited Chennai as well. A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which came into effect on January 1, 2010, was acknowledged in the joint address by the South Korean President and Singh as a means of taking forward bilateral relations between the two countries on multiple levels.
Nicolas Sarkozy: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was the guest of honour at the Republic Day parade in 2008. He was hosted by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sarkozy, who was here for a two-day visit, had acknowledged the importance of a strategic partnership between India and the European Union.
The only times leaders from India’s neighbours Pakistan and China were part of the parades was in 1955, when Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad from Pakistan witnessed the splendour of Republic Day, and 1958, when Marshall Ye Jianying was the chief guest. The latter’s visit however, did not cement Indo-Sino relations as the two countries went to war in 1962.
Vladimir Putin: Russia President Vladimir Putin was the chief guest at the 2007 Republic Day celebrations. The India Air Force was celebrating it’s 75th anniversary and Air Force helicopters showered rose petals at the parade area and spectators. Putin was on a two-day visit wherein he held talks with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then President A P J Abdul Kalam and other leaders. Various agreements ranging from defence to mutual cooperations were inked between the two countries during Putin’s visit.
Nelson Mandela: Then South African President Nelson Mandela was the guest of honour at the 46th Republic Day parade in 1995. Then President Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma and then Prime Minister PV Narasimha accompanied Mandela at the parade in the national capital. Mandela had come on a four-day visit to India. Mandela also paid a brief visit to Ahmedabad, the place where Mahatma Gandhi developed many of his ideas on self-help and nonviolence after returning from 20 years living in South Africa.”I could never reach the standard of morality, simplicity and love for the poor set by the Mahatma,” the New York Times had quoted Mandela as saying. “While Gandhi was a human without weaknesses, I am a man of many weaknesses,” he added.