Chandrikapersad Santokhi, Suriname President likely to be chief guest at Republic Day parade
New Delhi, Jan 10: Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the Indian-origin President of the South American nation of Suriname, likely be the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade on January 26.
Initially, India had invited British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the chief guest. Johnson telephoned his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to express regrets for his inability to visit to New Delhi and take part in India's Republic Day celebrations as the chief guest later this month due to mounting covid-19 cases at home.
News18 quoted PMO sources saying that Santokhi, who is of Indian origin, will be attending the Rajpath parade. However, an official confirmation has not been made yet.
Santokhi on Saturday pitched for free movement of people between India and his country as he favoured greater bilateral trade and cultural ties.
In an address at the virtual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations, the Indian-origin president expressed readiness to take the first step to end visa permits for visitors from India to Suriname.
"Suriname is prepared to take a first step in doing so by ending visa permits for visitors from India to Suriname," he said.
Santokhi said there is scope to expand cooperation in areas of business, trade and tourism.
Elaborating on historical links between the two countries, the president said the Suriname diaspora is part of India''s soft power and India is also part of Suriname''s soft power.
Large numbers of Indian workers were taken to Suriname to work as indentured labourers in the 19th century.
He said Suriname and India have historical connections going back 148 years, which has shaped the lives of many who travelled from India.
"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," he said.
Santokhi was the Chief Guest at the 16th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas conclave.
He also proposed creation of a special diaspora committee to identify opportunities for bilateral cooperation.