The selection of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as chief guest demonstrates the ruling Narender Modi government’s special focus on the Gulf region. The last time a leader from the Gulf region graced Republic Day as chief guest was when the then King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud visited India in 2006. In 2013, India almost had a chief guest from the Gulf region but the Sultan of Oman opted out on health grounds.
Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan visited India in February 2016 for the first time at the invitation of Modi. His visit transformed the friendly bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership. New Delhi believes that the Crown Prince’s visit on Republic Day will help further strengthen the multifaceted partnership between the two countries.
India marks Republic Day on January 26 every year, as the Indian Constitution came into force on this day in 1950.
The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said “We hope to welcome a dear friend of India, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, as Republic Day 2017 Chief Guest”.
Last year, the Indian Republic Day chief guest was French president Francois Hollande and in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited US President Barack Obama for his first Republic Day event after assuming office in May 2014.