Who were India’s Republic Day Chief Guests since 1950?

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Contrary to popular perception, a dignitary from France was invited on maximum occasions as a Chief Guest to the Republic Day Parade, followed by the King of Bhutan. On 10 different occasions, there was no Chief Guest. The Republic Day parade of 2018 was the first such occasion where there was more than one Chief Guest. 

India has the tradition of inviting Heads of State and Dignitaries from other countries as the Chief Guest for the annual Republic Day (RD) parade. The Republic Day parade of 2018 is special in the sense that Heads of State/Dignitaries from 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were invited as Chief Guests. This is the first time in the history that India is hosting more than one Chief Guest for the RD parade. Data shared by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in response to an application under RTI reveals some interesting insights about the ‘Chief Guests’ to the Republic Day parade.

There was no ‘Chief Guest’ on 10 occasions
We celebrated our 69th Republic day in 2018. In these 69 years, India always had a Chief Guest for the RD parade except on 10 occasions. Five of these 10 occasions were in the 1950s. India did not have a Chief Guest for the RD parade in 1952, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1970. Since 1971, we have had a Chief Guest every year for the RD parade.

Which country did the Chief Guest come from?
The Chief Guest for India’s RD parade came from 47 different countries till 2018. We have covered most of Asia, parts of Europe, Africa & the Americas. A dignitary from France was the chief guest most number of times (5) followed by Bhutan (4), Indonesia (3) and Mauritius (3). Dignitaries from Brazil, Cambodia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, UK & erstwhile Yugoslavia were chief guest on two occasions each.

A dignitary from Pakistan was the Chief Guest on two occasions; first in 1955 when Malik Ghulam Mohammed, the then Governor General was invited. Then in 1965, Rana Abdul Hamid, who was the then Minister of Agriculture in Pakistan was invited. In fact, this was one of the very few occasions when a person other than a Head of State was invited as the chief guest.

Which part of the world did the Chief Guest come from?
In the 1950s, only dignitaries from Asia were invited. India started inviting European dignitaries from the 1960s. In fact, European dignitaries were invited the most times in the 1960s, 1970s and even in 1980s. Their number has reduced in the last three decades. Dignitaries from India’s neighbouring South Asian countries were invited in every decade starting with the 1950s. South East Asian dignitaries seem to be the favourties of this decade as 14 of them were invited (including 10 in 2018) between 2010 and 2018. This is a part of India’s ‘Act East Policy’. A dignitary from the Middle East was invited for the first time in 2003 when the Iranian president Seyed Mohammad Khatami was the Chief Guest.

Three dignitaries were invited twice
Of the 59 occasions where a dignitary was invited as the Chief Guest for the RD parade, only three persons were invited twice each. The former French President Jacques Chirac, the 4th King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuk and the former Yugoslavian President Josip Tito were the only three people who have been invited twice to the RD parade as the Chief Guest. The President of a country was invited on 33 occasions followed by the Prime Minister (18 times). The King of a country was invited 9 times and Queen Elizabeth was invited once. The Crown Prince of UAE was the Chief Guest in 2017. The Chinese Head of State was invited in 1958, the only occasion when a Chinese dignitary was invited.

Featured Image: India’s Republic Day Chief Guests

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