New Delhi: India celebrated its 68th Republic Day on Thursday with a grand parade at Rajpath, the ceremonial road in the heart of Delhi flanked by the country’s most important buildings. President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Ministers, dignitaries and hundreds others watched the parade that showcases India’s military strength and cultural diversity.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the chief guest this year. Heavy security is in place after intelligence warnings of a terror attack through air and terrorists disguising themselves as security personnel.
Before the parade PM Modi, wearing a pink safa or traditional turban, paid tribute to Indian soldiers at Amar Jawan Jyoti and India Gate. Early on Thursday he tweeted, “Republic Day greetings to everyone.”
President Pranab Mukherjee posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award, to Havildar Hangpan Dada, who died fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir in May.
UAE soldiers led the military parade. The UAE is the second country after France to send its troops to participate in India’s Republic Day. India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas made its debut at the parade. Tejas, as a fourth generation aircraft, can fly at 1,350 km per hour and is comparable to the world’s best fighters, including French Mirage 2000, American F-16 and Swedish Gripen.
India’s elite counter-terrorism force, the National Security Guard (NSG), was a part of the parade for the first time. A contingent of some 60 commandos in black and full armed gear marched on Rajpath.
The marching contingent of 144 young Navy sailors was led by Lieutenant Aparna Nair. PM Modi’s “Skill India” campaign and GST or Goods and Services Tax were showcased by the government as part of the colourful tableaux that floated past the crowds at Rajpath.
Cheers rose up as the Indian Air Force performed a spectacular flypast of 27 aircraft including Mi-35 helicopters, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, Netra surveillance aircraft, C-17 Globemaster and Su-30 MKIs.
The ‘Dare Devils’ or military police bikers dazzled the crowd with stunts like the Ladder, Double Bar, Lotus, Christmas Tree, Aircraft, Sudarshan Chakra, Flower Pot and Pyramid. Children awarded for their acts of bravery also waved to the crowds as part of the parade.