Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro on Sunday joined a select group of world leaders to have graced India’s Republic Day celebrations in the past few decades.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares a light moment with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as President Ram Nath Kovind looks on, during the At Home reception, organised on the occasion of Republic Day, at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi, on Sunday. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI Photo
Bolsonaro, as the chief guest at the 71st Republic Day celebrations, watched the colourful parade at the majestic Rajpath along with President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other leaders.
Bolsonaro later attended the ‘at home’ reception hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the evening.
IMAGE: President Kovind, PM Modi and Brazilian President Bolsonaro witness the Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi, on Sunday. Photograph: PTI Photo
This is the third time that a Brazilian President was the chief guest at the Republic Day.
The last time a Brazilian president was the chief guest was in 2004 when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attended the parade.
Brazilian President Bolsonaro held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday after which India and Brazil inked 15 agreements to ramp up cooperation in a wide range of areas, including oil and gas, and unveiled an action plan to further broadbase their strategic ties.
IMAGE: The two Presidents in conversation during the parade. Photograph: PTI Photo
This is the first visit of Bolsonaro to India after he assumed office on January 1, 2019.
Invitation to Brazilian President Bolsonaro had drawn criticism from certain quarters with questions raised over a “controversial” figure like him being chosen to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
Asked about the issue, Secretary (East) Vijay Thakur Singh had said last week that he is an elected leader in a democratic country which is an emerging power in the region and one with which India has strong and substantive relations.
IMAGE: Bolsonaro and Modi watch the manoeuvre of IAF aircrafts during the Parade. Photograph: Arun Sharma/PTI Photo
Last year, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, while in 2018, leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries attended the Republic Day celebrations.
In 2017, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the chief guest at celebrations, while then French President Francois Hollande graced the occasion in 2016.
In 2015, then United States President Barack Obama watched the parade.
In 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at the celebrations, while Bhutan king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck attended the parade in 2013.
IMAGE: Modi receives the two Presidents on their arrival at Rajpath. Photograph: Arun Sharma/PTI Photo
The heads of state and government who have attended the Republic Day celebrations include Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, John Major, Mohammed Khatami and Jacques Chirac.
In 1993, then British Prime Minister John Major had attended the celebrations. Nelson Mandela participated in the event as South African President in 1995, while South Korean President President Lee Myung Bak witnessed the parade in 2010.
In 2008, French President Sarkozy participated in the celebrations. Another French President Chirac graced the occasion in 1998.
Other world leaders who have attended the celebrations include Nepal’s King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in 1999, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami in 2003, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011 and President of the Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 1991.