Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, called off his visit to India on Tuesday as the Republic Day chief guest due to restrictions imposed in the United Kingdom in the wake of the country-wide lockdown in the British Isles over the more virulent mutant coronavirus. The United Kingdom has entered in its third phase of lockdown amid increasing infections of the new Covid strain.
Johnson was to be the Republic Day chief guest later this month. An initial report had said there was no such change in plan so far even after the new mutated coronavirus variant has been identified in the United Kingdom and the country has imposed strict restrictions. PM Modi had extended the Republic Day Chief guest invitation to the British PM and he had accepted India’s invite to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in a very generous manner.
Johnson was expected to boost cooperation in areas that matter to the UK and that will be priorities for the international engagement throughout 2021 – from defence and security, to trade and investment, and health and climate change, his office said last month. The visit had assumed greater importance after the final Brexit deal with the European Union.
The United Kingdom has been seeing a huge surge in coronavirus cases
in the UK after a new mutant strain believed to be 70 percent more infectious was detected in September. Countries worldwide have imposed fresh travel bans on the United Kingdom in the wake of the new virus variant. Despite temporary travel restrictions, 30 countries have reported cases of a new mutant version of coronavirus. In India, 58 patients, all of them who came back from the UK or had contact with such travellers, have been found to be infected with the strain.
This was also to be Johnson’s first bilateral visit after the UK’s departure from the European Union in December 2020. In the past, members of the British royalty have been chief guests — Prince Philip in 1959 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1961. British chancellor of exchequer Rap Butler in 1956 and Chief of Defence Staff Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1964.
In the 2020 Republic Day event, India had invited Brazil Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.