NEW DELHI: This Republic Day History will repeat itself. On January 26, 1950, when India celebrated its first Republic Day, the chief guest was south-east Asian strongman Sukarno. Sixty-eight years on, India has again invited an Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, to grace the occasion. This comes at a historic time as the south-east Asian bloc and India completed 50 years of formation in 2017.
Only this time, the Indonesian President will not be the solitary chief guest. The country will roll out the red carpet for heads of nine other Asean countries who will witness India display its military might and cultural diversity during the parade.
With an aim to showcase its Act East policy, the Narendra Modi government’s move to invite 10 heads of Asean (Association of South-East Asian Nations) countries together is “unprecedented” as India has never ever invited more than two guests at a time on R-Day in the past. In his recent “Mann ki Baat”, PM Modi said, “January 26, 2018, will especially be remembered through the ages”.
Keeping the contingent of chief guests in mind, the VIP stand on Rajpath has been broadened to accommodate 10 heads of state — Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian PM Najib Razak, Thailand PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Cambodian PM Hun Sen Laos, PM Thongloun Sisoulith and Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah.