Saturday, 27 January 2018 | Abhinav Singh | New Delhi-
India showcased its military might and rich cultural diversity as the nation celebrated its 69th Republic Day with 10 heads of States of 10 ASEAN countries getting a peep into achievements at the grand parade at Rajpath with majestic Rashtrapati Bhawan in the background. The annual parade culminated with breathtaking flypast by the fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
It was for the first time that all the 10 leaders of ASEAN countries were invited as the guests of honour at Republic Day parade in an unprecedented strategic outreach to the powerful bloc. Unprecedented and historic presence of the ASEAN leadership is seen as a reflection of India’s growing stature as a major power in the region where China has been expanding its footprint.
The ASEAN, founded in 1967, comprises Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.
The ASEAN leaders who attended the parade are Singaporean Premier Lee Hsien Loong Brunei’s Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Thailand’s Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Lao PDR’s Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.
The supreme commander of the Indian armed forces President Ram Nath Kovind took the salute at the parade, led by Lieutenant General Asit Mistry, the General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area.
India’s highest peacetime military decoration Ashok Chakra was posthumously awarded to Garud Commando Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala of the IAF, who made the supreme sacrifice after gunning down two terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. The award was received by Corporal Nirala’s widow Sushmanand and his mother Malti Devi.
Parade commenced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the martyrs by laying a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti in the presence of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the three service chiefs. Wearing a saffron, red and green coloured headgear, Prime Minister reached the Rajpath and received President Ram Nath Kovind and the 10 ASEAN leaders.
Thousands of people who had started arriving early in the morning braving the winter chill lustily cheered as the marching contingents and tableaux went past them.
Thousands of hearts beat in unison as marching contingents of Army, Navy, Air Force, Central paramilitary forces strode to salute the President of India Ram Nath Kovind who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces.
The one-and-half-hour long Republic parade from Rajnath to Red Fort was performed amid unprecedented ground to air security cover.
The most spectacular highlight of the parade was the motorcycle contingent, “Seema Bhawani”, comprising women personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) that showcased their skills for the first time at the parade. Riding Royal Enfield motorcycles, the all women contingent, drew thunderous applause from the President, PM, the foreign dignitaries and the people sitting on both sides of Rajpath.
Lethal T-90 tank (Bhishma), Ballway Machine Pikate (II/IIK), Brahmos Missile System, Weapon Locating Radar (Swathi), Bridge Laying Tank T-72, Mobile Base Transceiver Station and Akash Weapon System in the formidable armoury of the Army were showcased at the parade.
Army’s marching contingent comprised of mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry also known as the President’s Body Guard, the Punjab Regiment, Maratha Light Infantry, the Dogra Regiment, Ladakh Scouts and the Regiment of Artillery and 123 Infantry Battalion — Territorial Army (Grenadiers).
While Navy’s marching contingents 144 young sailors, was led by Lieutenant Tushar Gautam, while the Indian Air Force contingent, comprising 144 men, was led by Squadran Leader Attal Singh Shekhon. Central para-military and columns of auxiliary civil forces marched on Rajpath.
BSF’s Camel contingents, Indian Coast Guard, Sashastra Seema Bal, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme were also among the marching contingents at the parade.
Cynosure of the parade was aesthetically designed and decorated 23 Tableaux of various States, armed forces and PSUs that rolled down Rajpath. This year, the Indian Navy’s Tableau showcased the theme ‘Indian Navy – Combat Ready Force for National Security’.
Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant of the Navy to be commissioned in 2020 hogged attention of those present there. Development & Research Organisation (DRDO) displayed its indigenously designed and developed sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ missile and Ashwini radar system.
With the theme of ‘Indian Air Force Encouraging Indigenisation’, IAF tableau displayed models of the supersonic Tejas Multi-role Fighter Aircraft, Rudra Helicopter, Arudhra Radar and the Akash missile system.
Fort the first time All India Radio tableau featured Modi’s monthly address ‘Mann Ki Baat’ and was one of the many firsts this year. An Income Tax Department tableau, about special anti-black money drive launched post-demonetisation, that rolled down Rajpath, was also on the list of many firsts.
Another highlight of the parade was the presence of the 61 tribal guests from various parts of the country who were invited by the Union Government to witness the Republic Day celebrations.
As the parade drew to an end, people started looking skyward to witness the grand finale of the parade in the form of spectacular flypast by IAF. It began with the roar of MI-17 and RUDRA armed helicopters along with a number of IAF aircraft.
‘Rudra’ formation comprising three ALH Mk IV WSI helicopters in ‘Vic’ formation, followed by the ‘Hercules’ formation comprising three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft followed by ‘Netra’ which is an Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) Aircraft also known as ‘Eye in the Sky.’ ‘Globe formation’ comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30 MKIs among others thundered past the skies over Rajpath..
The playing of the national anthem and the release of thousands of balloons, brought an end to the exhilarating parade watched across the country and the globe.
Most of the Ministers of the Modi Government including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Health Minister JP Nadda, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan were among those present on the occasion. BJP president Amit Shah was seen clapping enthusiastically.
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