Updated: December 15, 2020 8:34:13 PM
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be the main guest at the Republic Day celebrations in January 2021, confirmed British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Raab made the announcement after his meeting with Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday. He came to India on a bilateral visit on Monday night.
The Indian Express reported earlier on Johnson being contacted of India through informal channels.
Saying that Boris Johnson’s presence during the Republic Day celebrations is ‘symbolic of a new phase between India and the UK,’ Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said, ‘I am glad that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited Prime Minister Modi to join the UK – hosted a G7 summit next year. UK Prime Minister Johnson has also accepted the very generous invitation to attend the Republican Republic Day celebrations in January, which is a great honor. The presence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a key guest at Republic Day 2021 would in some ways symbolize a new era, a new phase of our relationship. “
Johnson is the sixth of the UK to be a main guest of Republic Day. He will also be the first British Prime Minister since John Major in 1993 to be a main guest at the festivities. In the past members of the British monarchy were chief guests – Prince Philip in 1959 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1961. British Prime Minister Rap Butler (1956, along with former Japanese Chief Justice Kotaro Tanaka) and then Chief of Defense Staff Lord Louis Mountbatten (1964) have also been major guests in the past.
This time, however, India may have a truncated version of Republic Day celebrations due to the pandemic, such as the scaled-down version of Independence Day celebrations on August 15th.
Invitation to be Main guest of Republican Day is symbolic from the perspective of the Indian government. New Delhi has woven a strategy with hospitality to decide its main guest. Each year, the choice is dictated by a number of factors – strategic and diplomatic, business interests and geopolitics.
The UK’s choice is interesting because links with post-Brexit UK will be tested on multiple fronts – economic, interpersonal, political and strategic levels. Both sides will be keen to engage with each other, and Delhi will want to improve its relationship with the EU as it deals with the UK – especially on economic ties.
Raab, who is one of the few foreign ministers to visit India during the COVID-19 pandemic, will also travel to Bangalore. He will be in India from the 14th to the 17th of December. He will also have official meetings with the Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, and the Minister of Education, Ramesh Pokhriyal.
The Foreign Ministry said Raab’s visit “will pave the way for further strengthening the partnership between trade, defense, climate, migration and mobility, education and health sectors in the post-Covid, post-Brexit context”.
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