Military precision blended seamlessly with cultural diversity at India’s 66th Republic Day parade Monday where US President Barack Obama was the Chief Guest. Heavy armour, marching contingents of the armed forces and the paramilitary and police forces interspersed with brass and pipe bands – tableaux depicting the multifarious heritage of this vast land and schoolchildren dancing merrily in spite of the chill marked the event, crowned by a flypast that many apprehended would not happen due to the weather.
For the first time, an all-women’s contingent drawn from the three services featured at the event, while the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force also fielded all-women contingents.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi drove to India Gate to lay a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial to the unknown soldier. He later drove back to the saluting base at Rajpath to welcome Obama and President Pranab Mukherjee, who took the salute at the two-hour parade.
Before it commenced, Mukherjee handed over posthumous Ashok Chakras – the nation’s highest military award in peacetime – to the widows of Major Mukund Vardarajan and Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh, who were killed in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
Republic Day parade chief guest, US President Barack Obama, Monday arrived at Rajpath in his official vehicle The Beast, in a departure from tradition. It’s customary for chief guests at the event to arrive and depart with the Indian president in his car from Rashtrapati Bhavan. Obama was accompanied by his wife Michelle. President Pranab Mukherjee arrived separately at the venue shortly after.
With US President Barack Obama as the chief guest, the flypast included three American aircraft acquired over the last few years – P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft, C-130J special operations aircraft and the C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift aircraft.
The flypast commenced with three Mi-35 helicopters in a vic formation, followed by three C-130J Super Hercules. The P-8I came next flanked by two Mig 29Ks, the newly inducted Russian fighter jets of the navy in a victor formation.
The C-17 Globemaster was next, flanked by two Su-30s, followed by five Jaguar fighter jets in arrowhead formation. Thereafter, five Mig 29 superiority fighters of the Indian Air Force came, and finally, three Sukhoi 30 MKIs in a trishul formation. The Su-30 MkI aircraft split upwards, making a Trishul in the sky. The Army’s indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv also flew over Rajpath.
The new initiatives by the Narendra Modi government such as Make in India and the Jan Dhan Yojana found a prominent place in the 66th Republic Day parade Monday as the tableaux rolled down the majestic Rajpath.
The department of financial services’ tableau on the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’ highlighted the uniqueness of the campaign which aims at bank accounts for all Indians and its impact on the weaker sections and low income groups.
The ‘Make in India’ tableau by the department of industrial policy and promotion depicted a mechanised lion against the backdrop of a smart city. The campaign aims to promote manufacturing in India.
Another pet project of the prime minister, the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ programme, a campaign against female foeticide which he launched from Panipat in Haryana Jan 22, was also displayed at the parade.
The tableau showed a woman rocking her infant daughter while other women dressed as doctors, engineers and scientists gathered around her. A replica of the ‘Statue of Unity’ – another pet project of Modi – that pays tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first home minister who played a crucial role in integrating the princely states into the Indian union, was displayed in the tableau of Gujarat, the prime minister’s home state.
A total of 25 tableaux rolled down Rajpath this year, up from last year’s 18. The parade is organised by the union defence ministry. US President Barack Obama, who is on his second visit to India, was the chief guest at the function. (IANS)