Republic Day 2023: The chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations this year is the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Al-Sisi arrived in India on Tuesday (January 24). This is the first time that the President of a Muslim country, Egypt, has been invited as the chief guest for the event. Well the relations between India and Egypt are historical. This relation dates back to the time of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of the country. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was started by 5 countries including India and Egypt in the late 1950s when the world was battling the Cold War. In this sense too, the relations between India and Egypt are historical.
Why are the relations between India and Egypt historical?
India and Egypt enjoy close political relations based on a long history of cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues. A joint declaration on the establishment of diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level was made on August 18, 1947. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser signed a friendship treaty between the two countries. He was also instrumental in forming the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) with Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito. Since the 1980s, there have been four prime ministerial visits to Egypt from the Indian side: Rajiv Gandhi (1985); P V Narasimha Rao (1995); IK Gujral (1997); and Dr. Manmohan Singh (2009, Non-Aligned Movement Summit).
It is very special to be the chief guest of India.
Being the chief guest for Republic Day is special for any country. This invitation also reflects the vision of the Government of India. The chief guest has an important role in the function. He is front and center in innumerable ceremonial activities. At Rashtrapati Bhavan, the chief guest is given a ceremonial guard of honour. In addition, the President of India also hosts a reception for the chief guest in the evening. New Delhi takes several factors into consideration while deciding its chief guest for the Republic Day. Every year the Chief Guest is chosen for strategic and diplomatic, business interest and international geopolitical reasons.
How is the chief guest of Republic Day chosen?
The chief guest for the Republic Day parade is selected keeping in mind several factors. This process starts about six months before the main event. All factors are taken into consideration by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) before extending the invitation. The most important aspect is related to the relationship between India and the country concerned. The Ministry of External Affairs sees how the relations between the two countries are. The invitation to be the chief guest of the Republic Day parade is considered the biggest gesture of friendship between India and the inviting country. India’s political, commercial, military and economic interests are involved in the decision regarding the chief guest. Simply put, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs uses this opportunity to further strengthen its relations with the inviting country.
Preference is given to old relations.
Historically, factors have also played a role in the choice of chief guest. For example, association with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). This movement started in the late 1950s, early 1960s. NAM was an international political movement of countries that had become free from the shackles of colonialism at about the same time. These countries supported each other in nation-building journeys, keeping themselves away from the Cold War conflicts. The parade’s first chief guest in 1950 was President Sukarno of Indonesia, one of the five founding members of NAM. These members included, among others, Nasser (Egypt), Nkrumah (Ghana), Tito (Yugoslavia) and Nehru (India). Al-Sisi’s arrival in India as the chief guest of the Republic Day reflects the history of NAM and 75 years of close ties between India and Egypt.
There is a whole process to go through to send invitations
After taking all the aspects into consideration, when the Ministry of External Affairs of India finalizes the name for the invitation, it sends it to the Prime Minister and the President for approval. If the Ministry of External Affairs gets the nod to go ahead, it starts working. The Indian Ambassador to the country concerned tries to ascertain carefully the availability of the potential chief guest. This is the most important factor because it is very difficult for the head of any country to take out time from the busy schedule. This is also one of the reasons why the Ministry of External Affairs makes a list of potential candidates, not just a choice. However, when the inviting country gives its approval, the Ministry of External Affairs then decides the entire protocol.
Here are the chief guests of Republic Day so far
1950- President Sukarno, Indonesia
1951- Raja Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah, Nepal
1952 and 1953 – no chief guest
1954 – King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan
1955 – Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Pakistan
1956 – Rab Butler, Chancellor of the Exchequer, United Kingdom; Chief Justice Kotaro Tanaka, Japan
1957 – Georgy Zhukov, Minister of Defense, Soviet Union
1958 – Marshal Ye Jianying, China
1959 – Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
1960 – President Kliment Voroshilov, Soviet Union
1961 – Queen Elizabeth II, United Kingdom
1962 – Prime Minister Viggo Kampmann, Denmark
1963 – King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia
1964 – Chief of Defense Staff Lord Louis Mountbatten, United Kingdom
1965 – Food and Agriculture Minister of Pakistan Rana Abdul Hameed
1966 – No Chief Guest
1967 – King Mohammad Zahir Shah, Afghanistan
1968 – President Alexey Kosygin, Soviet Union; President Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia
1969 – Prime Minister Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria
1970 – King Baudouin, Belgium
1971 – President Julius Nyerere, Tanzania
1972 – Prime Minister Sivasagar Ramgoolam, Mauritius
1973 – President Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire
1974 – President Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia; Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka
1975 – President Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia
1976 – Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, France
1977 – First Secretary Edward Gierek, Poland
1978 – President Patrick Hillary, Ireland
1979 – Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, Australia
1980 – President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, France
1981 – President José López Portillo, Mexico
1982 – King Juan Carlos I, Spain
1983 – President Shehu Shagari, Nigeria
1984 – King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan
1985 – President Raul Alfonsin, Argentina
1986 – Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Greece
1987 – President Alan García, Peru
1988 – President JR Jayawardene, Sri Lanka
1989 – Secretary General Nguyen Van Linh, Vietnam
1990 – Prime Minister Anirudh Jugnauth, Mauritius
1991 – President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Maldives
1992 – President Mario Soares, Portugal
1993 – Prime Minister John Major, United Kingdom
1994 – Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Singapore
1995 – President Nelson Mandela, South Africa
1996 – President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil
1997 – Prime Minister Basdev Pandey, Trinidad and Tobago
1998 – President Jacques Chirac, France
1999 – King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah, Nepal
2000 – President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria
2001 – President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria
2002 – President Kassam Uteem, Mauritius
2003 – President Mohammad Khatami, Iran
2004 – President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil
2005 – King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan
2006 – King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia
2007 – President Vladimir Putin, Russia
2008 – President Nicolas Sarkozy, France
2009 – President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan
2010 – President Lee Myung Bak, South Korea
2011 – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia
2012 – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand
2013 – King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan
2014 – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan
2015 – President Barack Obama, United States
2016 – President François Hollande, France
2017 – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates
2018 – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (Brunei), Prime Minister Hun Sen (Cambodia), President Joko Widodo (Indonesia), Prime Minister Thongloon Sisolith (Laos), Prime Minister Najib Razak (Malaysia), State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar), President Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore), Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha (Thailand), Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (Vietnam)
2019 – President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa
2020 – President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil
2023 – President Abdeh Fatah el-Sisi