HISTORIC GATHERING: India’s prime minister Narendra Modi welcomes 10 leaders from the Association of Asian Nations to the grand Republic Day parade


LEADERS FROM 10 SOUTHEASTERN ASIAN NATIONS WATCHED THE PARADE THAT DREW IN THE CROWDS

MARCHING contingents, strategic de­fence weaponry and colourful tableaux were on display as India celebrated its 69th Republic Day on Friday (26).  

Marching bands paraded the route from the Rajpath to the Red Fort

A grand parade was watched by thou­sands of people along with 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) leaders, who attended the event as chief guests, in a historic first.  

Signifying India’s fast growing strategic ties with ASEAN, leaders of all the 10 countries of the powerful bloc attended the parade at the majestic Rajpath, which showcased the country’s military might and cultural diversity.  

Displays of military might

Cold weather conditions and dense fog failed to dampen the enthusiasm of thou­sands of spectators who witnessed the nearly 90-minute parade that marched down the 8km stretch from the Rajpath to the Red Fort amid an unprecedented se­curity cover.  

The ASEAN leaders, in New Delhi to attend the India-ASEAN Commemora­tive Summit, joined India president Ram Nath Kovind and prime minister Naren­dra Modi at the Republic Day parade, making it an unprecedented event.  

The parade was commanded by Lt General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area. The supreme commander of the Indian armed forces president Kovind took the salute at the parade.  

Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vietnam prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippines president Rodri­go Duterte, Thai prime minister Gen Pr­ayut Chan-o-cha, Singaporean premier Lee Hsien Loong and Brunei’s Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah were among the ASEAN leaders who attended the event.  

Indonesian president Joko Widodo, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, prime minister of Laos Thongloun Sisou­lith and Cambodian premier Hun Sen al­so watched the grand parade.  

They were seen sharing light moments with each other and capturing memories on their cameras.  

“Greetings to fellow citizens on the Re­public Day. Jai Hind,” Modi tweeted.  

He referred to ASEAN as the centre of India’s Act East Policy, and said the friend­ship between India and ASEAN has been “nurtured by our culture and civilisation”.  

“It is a privilege for India to host all ASEAN leaders for the second time. Our friendship has been nurtured by our cul­ture, and our civilisation,” said Modi.  

Referring to performances based on the Ramayana organised by cultural groups from the ASEAN counties on Wednesday, Modi said: “We have organ­ised our Ramayana festival with members of ASEAN countries to showcase our common cultural treasure.”  

The prime minister thanked the ASE­AN leaders for being “honoured” guests at the Republic Day celebration.  

Most of the ministers of the Modi gov­ernment, including home minister Ra­jnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley, health minister J P Nadda, information and broadcasting mnister Smriti Irani, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and environment minister Harsh Vardhan were present on the occasion.  

They were seen applauding the tab­leaux of their respective states.  

Congress president Rahul Gandhi also attended the parade.  

He was seen sitting in the middle rows and chatting with senior Congress lead­ers and leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.  

India’s former prime minister Manmo­han Singh, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy chief minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia were also present on the occasion.  

There was a march past at the ceremo­ny by the Army personnel carrying the ASEAN flag. The Army personnel also carried the flags of the 10 ASEAN nations in the parade.  

Twenty three tableaux, including those representing various states, ministries and the All India Radio (AIR), among oth­ers, rolled down the Rajpath.  

Tableaux from 14 states and union ter­ritories showcased the historical, art and cultural heritage of the country.  

The highlight of the parade was the motorcycle contingent, Seema Bhawani, comprising women personnel of the BSF that showcased their skills for the first time at the parade.  

A popular motorcycle formation

The Indian Army’s 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 were also showcased at the parade.  

The marching contingent of the Army included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Punjab Regiment, Mara­tha Light Infantry, the Dogra Regiment, Ladakh Scouts, the Regiment of Artillery and 123 Infantry Battalion – Territorial Army (Grenadiers).  

The marching contingent of the Navy, comprising 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.  

The paramilitary and other auxiliary civil forces, including the Border Security Force, also marched on the Rajpath.  

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.  

There were a number of interesting tableaux that rolled down Rajpath.  

This year the Indian Navy’s Tableau showcased the theme Indian Navy Com­bat Ready Force for National Security.  

The Navy also showcased its Indige­nous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant, which will be commissioned in 2020, while the Defence Development and Research Or­ganisation exhibited the Nirbhay missile and the Ashwini radar system.  

The theme of the Indian Air Force Tab­leau was Indian Air Force Encouraging Indigenisation, which displayed models of the Tejas Multirole Fighter Aircraft, Rudra Helicopter, Arudhra Radar and the Akash missile system.  

The tableau of All India Radio 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, rolled down Rajpath was also on the list of many firsts.  

On behalf of the central government, 61 tribal guests from various parts of the country had been invited to witness the Republic Day celebrations.  

Fifteen of the 18 children who won the National Bravery Award also participated in the parade. Three children have re­ceived the award posthumously.  

In the children’s section, over 800 boys and girls drawn from three schools in Delhi along with a group of school chil­dren from Nagpur and Dimapur, per­formed dances on different themes.  

The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by MI-17 and RUDRA armed helicopters along with a number of IAF aircraft.  

The flypast commenced with the Rudra formation comprising three ALH Mk IV WSI helicopters in Vic formation, fol­lowed by the Hercules formation featur­ing three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.  

Trailing them were the Netra, an Air­borne Early Warning and Control System Aircraft also known as Eye in the Sky.  

Minutes before the parade began, the prime minister, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air force paid tributes at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the war memorial at India Gate where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid down their lives defending the frontiers of the nation.  

As per tradition, after unfurling the national flag, the national anthem was played followed by a 21-gun salute.  

A massive ground-to-air security ap­paratus was mounted, turning the na­tional capital into a protected fortress.  

The ceremony ended with the playing of the national anthem and the release of thousands of balloons as Modi and presi­dent Kovind waved to the crowd.