The Union Ministry of External Affairs confirmed on Saturday South African President Cyril Ramaphosa would be the chief guest at the celebration of Republic Day 2019 in New Delhi.

The announcement comes over a month after US President Donald Trump turned down India’s invite to be the chief guest at Republic Day 2019.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Cyril Ramaphosa at Buenos Aires during the two-day G20 Summit on 30 November-1 December. Posting a photograph of the two leaders at the summit, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted: “President Ramaphosa accepted India’s invitation to be the Chief Guest at Republic Day during 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.”

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Ramaphosa will be the second leader from South Africa to attend India’s Republic Day parade as the chief guest. Former President Nelson Mandela was the chief guest at the 1995 Republic Day parade.

According to reports, Ramaphosa will take part in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations, which will commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa. This year, the PBD will take place from 21-23 January in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of PM Modi. The date was moved from 9 January to the second half of the month so that it coincides with Republic Day celebrations.

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The South African leader is a known Mahatma Gandhi follower. A few months ago, he led as many as 5,000 people at the annual ‘Gandhi Walk’ event organised at Lenasia, a few kilometres from Johannesburg, to promote fitness and community awareness. India and South Africa are making efforts to develop bilateral relations in order to boost trade and investment relations.

Earlier, Modi had during their talks in Washington last year invited US President Donald Trump for a bilateral visit to India.

In October this year, a White House spokesperson said: “President Trump was honoured by Prime Minister Modi’s invitation for him to be the chief guest of India’s Republic Day on January 26, 2019, but is unable to participate due to scheduling constraints.”