Republic Day 2023: How does India choose its chief guest for Republic Day? Interesting history of invitation


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