NEW DELHI: Brazilian president Jair Messias Bolsonaro on Sunday joined a select group of world leaders to grace India's Republic Day celebrations in the past few decades. Bolsonaro, as the chief guest at the 71st Republic Day celebrations, watched the colourful parade of India’s military prowess and cultural diversity along Rajpath with president Ram Nath Kovind, prime minister Narendra Modi and a host of other leaders.
This is the third time that a Brazilian president has been the chief guest at Indias Republic Day celebration. The last time was in 2004 when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attended the parade.
Bolsonaro held talks with prime minister Narendra Modi on Saturday after which India and Brazil signed 15 agreements to ramp up cooperation in a wide range of areas, including oil and gas.
This is the first visit of by Bolsonaro to India after he assumed office on January 1, 2019.
The invitation to Bolsonaro drew criticism from certain quarters that a "controversial" figure like him was chosen to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
Environment-conscious citizens were critical of the invitation to the Brazil president. “Bolsonaro is responsible for the forest fires in Amazon and attacks on indigenous people. These ecocidal crimes are occurring at a time when the world is staring in the face of a mass extinction. It just cannot get more ironic,” Sandeep Aniruddhan, a core team member, United Conservation Movement (UCM)
“His comments epitomise racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious extremism and violence. He is more or less isolated. What's more, Brazil has been trying strongarm policies at the WTO that put our farmers at a disadvantage. What is such a person doing on our soil, as no less than a chief guest of the most important national annual event? This is a national shame,” he said.
In December, UCM had started an online petition and Twitter campaign, #NoBolsonaro #BoycottWTO #QuitWTO.
The petition pointed out that Bolsonaro led a campaign against India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) claiming that India was providing support to sugarcane farmers beyond the permissible limits under WTO regulations.
“Brazil challenged the minimum support price for sugarcane set by the Indian government called FRP (Fair and Remunerative Price), which prevents sugarcane farmers from being exploited and helps them receive a fair price from sugar mills. Brazil has been brazenly trying to interfere in the Indian internal policy and trying to dictate what we must pay our farmers. Brazil's policies will lead to more corn seeds and soybean oil, grown using GM seeds, being exported from Brazil to India,” the petition read.
Asked about the issue, the secretary (east) in the Ministry of External Affairs Vijay Thakur Singh said last week that Bolsonaro is a democratically elected leader of country that is an emerging power in the region and one with which India has strong and substantive relations.