Cyril Ramaphosa is the latest head of state to be have been the chief guest at a Republic Day parade.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa Saturday joined a select group of world leaders, including Nelson Mandela, to have graced India’s Republic Day celebrations in the past few decades.
Ramaphosa, as the chief guest at the 70th 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.
He became the second president from South Africa to grace the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest after Nelson Mandela attended the event 24 years ago.
Ramaphosa, accompanied by spouse Dr Tshepo Motsepe and a delegation of ministers and senior officials, attended the 90-minute event at Rajpath, showcasing India’s military might, cultural diversity and various facets of Mahatma Gandhi’s life.
Ramaphosa’s presence at the celebrations was seen as significant as India is celebrating 150th birth anniversary of the father of the nation. Mahatma Gandhi had stayed 21 years in South Africa which played a pivotal role in moulding him as an apostle of peace.
His transformation is best described by anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela. “You gave us Mohandas Gandhi; we returned him to you as Mahatma Gandhi,” Mandela had said.
Ramphosa arrived here on Thursday on a two-day visit, primarily to attend the Republic Day celebrations.
Last year, 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 the celebrations, while then French president Francois Hollande graced the occasion in 2016.
In 2015, then US 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.
The heads of state and government who have attended the Republic Day celebrations include Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, John Major, Mohammed Khatami and Jacques Chirac.
The then British prime minister John Major had attended the celebrations in 1993, Mandela participated as the South African president in 1995 while South Korean president Lee Myung Bak witnessed the parade in 2010.
In 2008, Sarkozy participated in the celebrations as French president, while another French president Chirac graced the occasion in 1998.
The world leaders who attended the celebrations include Russian president Putin in 2007, Nepal’s King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in 1999, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2004, Iranian president Mohammed Khatami in 2003, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011 and president of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 1991.
In 2009, South Korean president Lee Myung Bak had graced the occasion as the chief guest, while Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev witnessed the parade here in 2010.