New Delhi’s choice of its Republic Day guests has nearly always reflected India’s economic and geo-strategic interests. So far, it has had chief guests from Bhutan and France on four occasions each; from USSR/Russia and Mauritius thrice; and from the UK, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Indonesia, the erstwhile Yugoslavia, and Sri Lanka twice each.
Besides, the occasion has, at different times, been graced by the heads of state or government from Spain, Portugal, Peru, Algeria, China, Tanzania, Zaire, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Thailand, Zambia, Australia, Poland, Ireland, Argentina, Vietnam, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, the Maldives and Mexico.
US President Barack Obama, who is visiting India from January 25, is going to be the first American dignitary to be the chief guest of the Republic Day parade. Many see this visit as the peak of India’s close ties of over a decade and a half, across a wide gamut of areas, with the US.
Also, with Obama’s visit, India will have had a chief guest each from at least four of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. According to some lists, Chinese Defence Minister Marshal Ye Jianying was the chief guest in 1958, a year before that country’s relations soured with India, leading up to an armed conflict in 1962. However, the external affairs ministry’s annual report for that year does not mention this.
In recent years, chief guests of India’s Republic Day parade have reflected the country’s deep interest in East Asia and the Asean bloc, and its willingness to play a more proactive role in the developing security architecture in the Indian Ocean region.