Omar Abdullah
Omar Abdullah
(Photo: AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday cancelled his visit to India's Republic Day celebrations on January 26. Johnson spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to express his regret over not being able to visit India as planned due to the growing crisis created by the new variant of coronavirus.

His call with Modi came a day after he addressed Britain in a televised address to plunge the country into a new stay-at-home lockdown as his medical chiefs warned that the National Health Service (NHS) was under threat of being overwhelmed by the rising infection rates.

Johnson has indicated that his India visit would take place during the first half of this year and before the G7 summit presided over by the UK, planned for later this year.

"The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

"In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the Prime Minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus," the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, said Boris Johnson's decision to cancel his visit to India was expected. "As expected. He could hardly be sitting in Delhi watching a parade & cultural show after locking down the UK till February," the National Conference (NC) leader tweeted. However, he said it would be interesting to see who will fill in for Johnson. Abdullah added, "Will be interesting to see which Head of State/Government steps up to fill the vacancy!"

Meanwhile, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has urged the Narendra Modi-led government to cancel the Republic Day parade, terming it as "unfair on the parade participants". "Modi government needs to cancel the Republic Day Parade. It is unfair on the parade participants. We should have done it earlier so that we could have requested PM Boris to come instead for the 2022 Republic Day," tweeted Swamy.

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Free Press Journal