South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, sources said.
They said an official announcement on it may be made shortly.
The government has zeroed on Ramaphosa weeks after US President Donald Trump declined India's invitation to be the chief guest at the parade, citing pressing engagements, including his State of The Union (SOTU) address.
The sources indicated that India was not exclusively looking at Trump's presence at the Republic Day celebrations and that various other options were also being explored.
Every year, India invites world leaders to attend its Republic Day celebrations.
In 2015, the then US president Barack Obama had attended it as the chief guest which was his second visit to India as American president.
This year, leaders from 10 ASEAN countries had attended the Republic Day celebrations.
In 2016, the then French president Francois Hollande was the chief guest of the parade while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at the celebrations in 2014.
The heads of state and government who have attended the Republic Day celebrations include Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, John Major, Mohammed Khatami and Jacques Chirac.
It's worth noting that the Indo-US relations have been under severe pressure over India's defence purchases from Russia and also its oil imports from Iran. The US had, in fact, warned India not to go ahead with the signing of S-400 missile system deal with Russia. India nonetheless signed the deal for five systems when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India earlier this month.
The opposition had slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi over reports of US President Donald Trump's refusal for being the chief guest at the Republic Day parade next year and called it a "diplomatic faux pas".
Congress leader and former Union minister Anand Sharma said Modi's approach is "frivolous" and his conduct of diplomacy lacks gravitas. He said Modi must understand that engagement with strategic partners can not be transactional or episodic.
(With inputs from PTI)
(With inputs from PTI)
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