I spent a couple of enjoyable hours watching India’s Republic Day parade broadcast live from New Delhi on Doordarshan TV. The spectacular procession, along the Rajpath and past India Gate, showcases India’s military might, cultural diversity and national integrity. The annual event is also a celebration of the Indian freedom movement and the successful rise of India in all spheres of the global arena since its independence 65 years ago.
The chief guest at the Republic Day parade is typically a foreign head of state or government chosen carefully to reflect the important strategic, economic and political relationship between India and that country.
This year’s chief guest was Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
India’s 63 republic days have featured chief guests from about 40 countries. Of the forty, only a handful have received this honour on more than one occasion. France leads this very exclusive pack by being the guest of honour four times.
Bhutan has received the honour three times, in 1954, 1984 and 2005. And the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, is the only person to have attended India’s Republic Day as chief guest twice while holding the same office.
This special privilege, this unique honour, that India, a big and powerful country, gives Bhutan, a small kingdom, during its most important national day is significant. It is a reflection of the deep and enduring friendship between our two countries.
So today, on the joyous occasion of the 63rd Republic Day, I offer my Indian friends – in Bhutan, in India and the world over – my heartiest congratulations and good wishes for continued peace, progress and prosperity.
Pelden Drukpa Gyelo!
“Good wishes” – excerpt from the President of India’s Republic Day Address