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India celebrates 67th Republic Day with majestic parade

A display of BRAHMOS missile during the 67th Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: PTI.

NEW DELHI (PTI): India's military prowess and multi-hued images of the country's rich cultural diversity and achievements in various fields were on display at the majestic Rajpath on Tuesday during 67th Republic Day parade which was graced by French President Francois Hollande as the chief guest.

Thousands of people on both sides of the imposing Rajpath, India's ceremonial boulevard facing the seat of power Raisina Hills, braved the winter chill and cheered loudly as the marching contingents and tableux went past them.

The national capital, particularly the Central and New Delhi areas, were brought under unprecedented security blanket as thousands of personnel kept a hawk-eye vigil to thwart any untoward incident. There were intelligence inputs that terror groups may target some important installations in the city.

Hollande was seated between President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wore a marigold coloured 'safa'(turban). Modi was seen explaining things to Hollande on several occasions during the one-and-a-half-hour-long event.

This year the duration of the parade has been curtailed from more than two hours to 90 minutes.

A French military contingent also marched down the Rajpath, a first by any foreign armed force. In 2009, an Indian contingent had also participated in France's annual Bastille Day parade.

Apart from India's missile firing capability T-90 'Bhishma' tank, Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP II (Sarath), Mobile Autonomous Launcher of the BRAHMOS Missile System, Akash Weapon System, Smerch Launcher Vehicles, the highlights of the parade also included a canine squad.

The synchronised military and police contingents led by General Officer Commanding (Delhi), Lt General Rajan Ravindran marched proudly to the lilting tunes of the bands through Rajpath where Mukherjee, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, took the salute from a specially erected dais.

Earlier, Hollande, who is on a three-day state visit, arrived with Mukherjee and was received by Modi who introduced him to the three services chief -- Army, Air Force and Navy.

Alongside Hollande, the fifth French President to attend the celebrations, the parade was watched by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP president Amit Shah and the country's top political and military brass, besides the diplomatic community.

Minutes before the parade began, Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and the three service chiefs laid wreaths at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti', the war memorial at the India Gate where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid down their lives defending the frontiers of the nation.

Before the start of the ceremonial parade, Mukherjee presented the Ashok Chakra (Posthumous), highest peacetime gallentry award, to Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami of 9 Para (Special Force) for his bravery in fighting with terrorists on the intervening night of September 2/3 last year in Haphruda forest at Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. The award was received by his wife Bhavna Goswami.

A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital. Commandos with light machine guns were deployed at 10 strategic locations and anti-aircraft guns remained positioned at vantage points in the capital.

The entire region of Central and New Delhi had nearly 50,000 security personnel drawn from Delhi Police and central security forces guarding every nook and corner.

The unfurling of the tricolour by the President and playing of the national anthem were followed by a customary 21-gun salute.

After a gap of 26 years, an Army dog squad drawn from the Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) took part in the parade, along with their handlers, adding a special charm to the occasion.

Another attraction was the colourful BSF Camel Regiment consisting of 56 camels. For the first time the parade saw an ex-servicemen tableau, displaying the role of veterans in nation building.

An Indian Air Force tableau with the theme 'Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations' showcased the IAF's rescue and relief operations during floods in Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, besides its role in evacuating people in Nepal when that country was hit by a devastating earthquake in April last year.

This year the Indian Navy's tableau had the theme 'Empowering India through Maritime security and Indigenisation.'

The tableau displayed flight deck operations on the new aircraft carrier 'Vikrant' under construction at the Kochi Shipyard Ltd and the indigenously constructed submarine 'Kalvari' having a 'Made in India' tag on them.

The marching contingents of Army included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Parachute Regiment, the Corps of Signals, the Rajput Regiment, the Garhwal Rifles, the Assam Regiment and 11 Gorkha Rifles.

The marching contingents of paramilitary and other auxiliary civil forces included those from the Border Security Force, Assam Rifles, Indian Coast Guard, an all women contingent of Central Reserve Police Force, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme.

Tableaux from 17 States and six Central Ministries and Departments, featuring varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the country, were among the major attractions at the parade.

Similarly floats of Ministry of Communication and IT based on 'Digital India', the Ministry of Panchayat Raj float on 'Empowered Women and empowered Panchayat Raj and Society' and float of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation on 'Swachh Bharat Mission' showcased some of the flagship programmes of the Government.

Twenty three of 25 children selected for the National Bravery Award 2015 also participated in the parade. Two children have got the award posthumously.

In the children's pageant section, about 500 boys and girls drawn from five schools in Delhi and a group of school children from South Central Zone Cultural Centre performed colourful dances on Rajpath.

'Dare Devils'- the motorcycle display team of Corps of Signals was a major attraction of the parade.

They performed different stunts like 'Salute to President', 'Signal Rocket', 'Signal Fighter', 'Abhimanyu', 'Shradhanjali' and 'Human Pyramid', etc. on moving motor cycles.

The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by the IAF. It started with the 'Chakra' formation, comprising three Mi-35 helicopters in 'Vic' formation, followed by the 'Hercules' formation comprising three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

Trailing them was the 'Globe formation' comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30s. Next, five Jaguars flew in Arrowhead formation. Then the breath-taking 'Trishul' formation comprised three Su-30 MKI.

The flypast concluded with another Su-30 MKI carrying out a 'Vertical Charlie' manoeuvre over the saluting dais.

Modi and Hollande also stood up from their seats when Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra awardees moved past the ceremonial dais during the course of the parade.

The French Army contingent followed the gallantry award winners and the two leaders continued to remain standing till it also passed by.


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