From Putin to Abe: Attendees of R-Day parades in India before Obama

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at India’s R-Day parade last year, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was given this honour in 2007.

Rajeev Sharma January 26, 2015 08:04:33 IST
From Putin to Abe: Attendees of R-Day parades in India before Obama

Barack Obama is the sixth President of the United States to visit India – after Dwight D Eisenhower (1959), Richard Nixon (1969), Jimmy Carter (1978), Bill Clinton (2000) and George W Bush (2006). But he is the first US President to visit India second time during his tenure as he had already paid a visit to India in November 2010.

Obama is also the first US President to be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day parade, a pageant that India has been holding annually since 1950.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at India’s R-Day parade last year, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was given this honour in 2007.

From Putin to Abe Attendees of RDay parades in India before Obama

Manmohan Singh with Vladimir Putin. AFP.

But few would remember that fact that India has had chief guests for its R-Day parade from leaders of two countries it fought wars with: Pakistan and China.

It would be a revelation for many to know that Pakistan has figured twice in India’s Republic Day event. This is an important but lesser known and quoted fact to demonstrate India’s intent of having good relations with Pakistan.

In 1955, Pakistan’s Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad was the chief guest at the R-Day parade. Incidentally, he was the first chief guest at Rajpath. A decade later, Pakistan’s Food and Agriculture Minister Rana Abdul Hamid was the chief guest at the R-Day parade in 1965. Ironically, a few days after Hamid attended India’s Republic Day celebrations as chief guest, India and Pakistan went to war.

India had given the top honour to China in 1958 when Marshall Ye Jianying, a Chinese communist general and a Marshal of the People's Liberation Army, attended the R-Day parade as chief guest. Ye was the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1978 to 1983 and China’s titular head of state during this period.

For those interested in trivia, India’s Republic Day parade used to be held at different venues in New Delhi. Between 1950 and 1954 the venues of the R-Day parade were Irwin Stadium (National Stadium), Kingsway (Rajpath), Red Fort and Ramlila grounds. It was only in 1955 when the R-Day parade in its present form was organized at Rajpath.

Another bit of trivia is that France and Bhutan have the distinction of being the chief guest at India’s R-Day parade for the maximum (four) number of times, followed by three visits each from Mauritius and USSR/Russia.

Other countries which have been invited multiple times as chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations include Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Britain, Brazil, Nigeria, Indonesia and erstwhile Yugoslavia.

Following is the list of chief guests at India’s R-Day parade since 1950 to 2014:

1950 (President Sukarno, Indonesia), 1951-52-53 (None), 1954 (King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan), 1955 (Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Pakistan), 1956-57 (None), 1958 (Marshall Ye Jianying, China), 1959 (None), 1960 (President Kliment Voroshilov, Soviet Union), 1961 (Queen Elizabeth II, UK), 1962 (None), 1963 (King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia), 1964 (None), 1965 (Food and Agriculture Minister Rana Abdul Hamid, Pakistan), 1966-67 (None), 1968 (Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin and Yugoslavia President Josip Broz Tito), 1969 (Prime Minister of Bulgaria Todor Zhivkov), 1970 (None), 1971 (President Julius Nyerere, Tanzania), 1972 (Prime Minister Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Mauritius), 1973 (President Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire), 1974 (Yugoslavia President Josip Broz Tito and Sri Lanka Prime Minister Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike), 1975 (President Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia), 1976 (Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, France), 1977 (First Secretary Edward Gierek, Poland), 1978 (President Patrick Hillery, Ireland), 1979 (Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, Australia), 1980 (President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, France), 1981 (President Jose Lopez Portillo, Mexico), 1982 (King Juan Carlos I, Spain), 1983 (President Shehu Shagari, Nigeria), 1984 (King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan), 1985 (President Raúl Alfonsín, Argentina), 1986 (Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Greece), 1987 (President Alan Garcia, Peru), 1988 (President Junius Jayewardene, Sri Lanka), 1989 (General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh, Vietnam), 1990 (Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, Mauritius), 1991 (President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Maldives), 1992 (President Mário Soares, Portugal), 1993 (Prime Minister John Major, United Kingdom), 1994 (Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Singapore), 1995 (President Nelson Mandela, South Africa), 1996 (President Dr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil), 1997 (Prime Minister Basdeo Panday Trinidad and Tobago), 1998 (President Jacques Chirac, France), 1999 (King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Nepal), 2000 (President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria), 2001 (President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria), 2002 (President Cassam Uteem, Mauritius), 2003 (President Mohammed Khatami, Iran), 2004 (President Luiz Inacio 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 (Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand), 2013 (Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan), 2014 (Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan).

Updated Date:

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