INDIA. Mumbai: The President of the Republic of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, of Indian origin, is likely to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations to be held on January 26, in the national capital, New Delhi.
While speaking on the occasion of the “16 th Pravasi Bharatiya (NRI) Divas” on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave enough indications of the impending visit of Santokhi to India.
“Today, the warm words of the President of Suriname and his affection for India have touched the heart of all of us. In each of his words, in every sense, his feeling towards India was reflected and was motivating us. Like him, I also hope that we will meet soon and we will also have the opportunity to accord a grand welcome to the President of Suriname in India”, Modi said.
Suriname is a country on the northeastern coast of South America. It is a former Dutch colony where people of Indian descent make up the largest ethnic group.
“I also feel pride in being of Indian heritage, a heritage and culture which was passed on by my parents and grandparents, who 148 years ago, started this adventurous journey from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and sailed from Kolkata in search of their dreams for a better life in Suriname,” Santokhi, who was the Chief Guest at the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas conclave said.
Visa-free travel between India and Suriname
He had virtually pitched for free movement of people between India and Suriname since he favoured greater bilateral trade and cultural ties. Santokhi expressed readiness to take the first step to end visa permits for visitors from India to Suriname and also said there is scope to expand cooperation in areas of business, trade, and tourism. Elaborating on historical links between the two countries, the Surinam president said that the Suriname diaspora is part of India’s soft power and India is also part of Suriname’s soft power.
Santokhi was sworn in as the President of Suriname on July 16, 2020. He had taken the oath in Sanskrit while holding Vedas during the inauguration ceremony, as he repeated the Sanskrit verses chanted by the priest.
Earlier, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, was invited to attend India’s Republic Day parade on January 26, which was accepted by the British leader. However, Johnson cancelled his visit on Tuesday last week, citing the need to oversee the pandemic response back home in the UK.
R Day parade expected to be different
In the meanwhile, the Republic Day parade, scheduled to be held on January 26 in New Delhi, is expected to be different’ this time around. In addition to the National Security Guard (NSG)‘s Black Cat commandos, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the country’s largest paramilitary force, will also present a tableau. Besides, the parade will see the marching band squads of Delhi Police and the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), as well as a distinguished camel-borne squad of the Border Security Force (BSF).
However, for the first time in the history of R-Day, the parade will not culminate at the Red Fort. Instead, it will start from Vijay Chowk and end at the National Stadium. The distance of the parade has been cut down to half — from an earlier 8.2 kilometers to 3.3 kilometers. The number of cultural programs will also be fewer. The size of the marching contingents from the armed forces and the para-military will also be smaller. These squads will only have 96 participants compared to 144 in the ordinary course.
Not more than 25,000 spectators will be allowed, compared to over 100,000 people who usually turn up for the parade that showcases India’s military might and cultural diversity. Children below the age of 15 will not be permitted at the parade. The replica of Ram Temple in Ayodhya is expected to be of special attention.