South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will be chief guest at India's 70th Republic Day celebrations. Mr Ramaphosa was invited to be the chief guest by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Saturday said in a tweet: "President Ramaphosa accepted India's invitation to be the Chief Guest at Republic Day during 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi."
150 years of Mahatma & 100 years of Madiba!— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) December 1, 2018
Good meeting between PM @narendramodi & South Africa President @CyrilRamaphosa on margins of #G20Summit. President Ramaphosa accepted India's invitation to be the Chief Guest at Republic Day during 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. pic.twitter.com/JzF8SZdaia
PM Modi said the upcoming visit will help "cement ties between India and South Africa". In another tweet, he said "Bapu's close links with South Africa is well known".
The upcoming visit of President @CyrilRamaphosa, and that too during the special occasion of India's Republic Day will further cement business and people-to-people ties between India and South Africa. pic.twitter.com/0K6qH17SyO— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 1, 2018
Glad to have met President @CyrilRamaphosa. At a time when India is marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, it is our honour to welcome President Ramaphosa as the Chief Guest for the 2019 Republic Day celebrations. Bapu's close link with South Africa is well known. pic.twitter.com/mGnN0mDj0L— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 1, 2018
The announcement comes a little over a month after US President Donald Trump declined India's invitation to be the chief guest. President Trump's administration had said he has a "crowded agenda" and can't be in India for the Republic Day.
This year, in a first, the chief guest at Republic Day celebrations were the 10 heads of state from ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional grouping of 10 Southeast Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei).
The chief guest at India's first Republic Day on January 26, 1950 was the President of Indonesia, and since then, five other Southeast Asian leaders have chief guests at the Republic Day parades.