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For second year in row, no chief guest on Republic day due to COVID-19 crisis

For the second year year in a row, India’s Republic Day will have no foreign chief guest amid the COVID-19 crisis, especially with the increase in the number of Omicron variant cases.

Five central Asian leaders were invited as the chief guest at the Republic day parade on January 26 earlier, though no public announcements were made by either side.

According to the Indian health ministry, 2,38,018 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the last 24 hours. The ministry in its daily morning press statement on Tuesday said 8,891 Omicron cases have been detected so far, which is an increase of 8.31 per cent since Monday.

Last year, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was invited as the chief guest but he could not take part amid the COVID-19 crisis. In the past, India saw no Republic Day guests in 1952, 1953 and 1966.

India’s former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri had died on January 11, 1966, in Tashkent and the new PM Indira Gandhi was sworn in on January 24, 1966, just 2 days before the Republic day. 

As per the diplomatic calender, January was expected to be a heavy month with the visit of PM Modi to UAE, defence minister Rajnath Singh to Vietnam and mega “Vibrant Gujarat” investors meet but visits were postponed or cancelled amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The focus now is on more virtual meetings and telephonic conversations. EAM Jaishankar had held telephonic talks with over 15 of his counterparts since the new year dawned.

Next week will see a virtual summit involving PM Modi and all the five Central Asian leaders to celebrate the 30 years of establishment of ties. The dates have been proposed for the summit and will take place on January 26. According to multiple sources, the central Asian capitals confirmed that their leadership will be taking part in a virtual summit hosted by New Delhi next week. 

The India Central Asia summit takes place even as engagement between the two sides has increased over the past few years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited all the central Asian countries in 2015, which was the first of its kind tour by any Indian Prime minister. 

December saw the third India-Central Asia meeting in Delhi where all the five Central Asian foreign ministers participated.

During the meet, external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar emphasised on 4 Cs – commerce, capacity enhancement, connectivity and contacts in the ties pointing to “good history of cooperation”. 

Central Asian FMs participated in Delhi meet giving a miss to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers meet being hosted in Pakistan in what was seen as a snub to Islamabad.

EAM Jaishankar had last year visited two Central Asian countries – Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

India has in the past announced a $ 1 billion line of credit for priority development projects in fields such as connectivity, energy, IT, healthcare, education, agriculture, etc for Central Asia. It has also pitched for Chabahar port in Iran for an easy route for connectivity that has garnered support among those countries.

Source: Thanks