New Delhi: India is likely to have no chief guest at the Republic Day Parade as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has cancelled the scheduled visit.
In an official communication, UK's foreign office said that the PM had to cancel the visit owing to the escalation of the Covid 19 crisis in the United Kingdom because of the new mutant variant of the coronavirus.
"The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned. In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the Prime Minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus," a press statement from 10 Downing Street said.
However, the office said that the UK Prime Minister hopes to visit India in the first half of 2021, and ahead of the UK's G7 Summit that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to attend as a guest.
For over last 50 years, India had a chief guest on all republic days except on three occasions – 1952, 1953 and 1966.
Meanwhile, cancellation of the visit has instigated a debate on social media on whether it is appropriate to conduct the parade during the pandemic situation.
The debate was initiated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Rajya Sabha MP, Subramanian Swamy, who reiterated his demand dubbing it as "unfair on the parade participants."
Modi government needs to cancel the Republic Day Parade. It is unfair on the parade particpants. We should have done it earlier so that we could have requested PM Boris to come instead for the 2022 Republic Day.— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) January 5, 2021
Shashi Tharoor MP also called for the cancellation of the "festivities altogether".
Now that @BorisJohnson's visit to India this month has been cancelled due to the #COVIDSecondWave, & we don't have a Chief Guest on #RepublicDay, why not go one step farther & cancel the festivities altogether? Getting crowds to cheer the parade as usual would be irresponsible.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 5, 2021