New Delhi. Overcast skies drizzled their blessings on the Indian Republic and thousands of spectators who had gathered to watch the 90-minute long parade, celebrating India’s 68th Republic Day on January 26, 2017, along the imposing central ceremonial boulevard, Rajpath.
It was a morning of pomp and pageantry.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s arrival at the saluting base, accompanied by Chief Guest Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of the UAE, heralded the major festivities. The colourful Presidential Bodyguard and a 21-gun salute launched the military parade, a major highlight of which was the 149-member marching contingent from UAE, comprising personnel from Presidential Guards, the Air Force, the Navy and Army.
President Mukherjee, commander-in-chief of the Indian armed forces, took the salute as the parade began with the UAE military contingent marching down the boulevard. Led by Lt Col Abood Musabeh Alghfeli, the contingent comprised the UAE Presidential Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and 35 musicians.
Delegates and diplomats from UAE, in ceremonial dress, stood up to cheer and take photos as the contingent of their soldiers from the army, navy and air force marched past, accompanied by their military band.
The Indian Army’s marching columns followed the tableaux showing its missile firing capabilities. The T-90 ‘Bhishma’ tank, Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP-2K, Mobile Autonomous Launcher of the BrahMos Missile System, Weapon Locating Radar ‘Swathi’, ‘Akash’ Weapons System, CBRN Reconnaissance Vehicle and ‘Dhanush’ Gun System were the main draw among the mechanised columns.
The Indian Air Force tableau rolled down Rajpath with the theme “Air Dominance through Network Centric Operations” displaying the scaled down models of the Su-30 MKI, Mirage-2000, AWACS, UAV, Apache and Communication Satellites.
The Indian Navy tableau theme was ‘Indian Navy – Professional Force-Anchoring Stability, Security and National Prosperity.’ It showcased lethal marine commandoes proceeding for action, the indigenously built Kolkata Class Destroyer and the Kalvari Class next generation attack submarines.
The marching contingents of the army featured horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Mechanised Infantry Regiment, and columns from the Bihar Regiment, Gorkha Training Centres, the Madras Engineering Group and the 103 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) Sikh Light Infantry.
For the first time ever, ‘black cat’ commandos of the elite National Security Guard (NSG) counter-terror force padded along the central vista, drawing loud cheers from the spectators.
India’s military prowess was on display with a fly-past by three indigenous LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) ‘Tejas’ Aircraft and the Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) developed by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO).
In what must have struck a chord with the Chief Guest, the colourful Border Security Force (BSF) camel regiment, led by Deputy Commandant Kuldeep Seervi, sashayed down the central vista, to huge cheers.
Crown Prince Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces, sat next to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who sported a pink ‘safa’ (turban). They were seen smiling and in animated conversation at times, particularly when the Jammu & Kashmir tableau went past the saluting base, showcasing the beauty of Gulmarg as a winter tourist destination.
Tableaux from 17 states and Union Territories showcased the varied historical, art and cultural heritage of the country, allowing the visitors to catch a glimpse of the ‘unity in diversity’ of India. Brightly attired schoolchildren struck a real chord, while the breathtaking antics of the ‘Daredevils’ of the Corps of Military Police on their motorcycles drew gasps of admiration.
The dreary gray skies could not dampen the enthusiasm of the thousands of spectators who lined the streets to view the magnificent military and cultural parade. Nor could it prevent the roars of approval as the various aircraft in the fabulous flypast performed spectacular feats in the sky, bringing to a close the major festivities of India’s Republic Day on January 26.
The pouring afternoon rain in the national capital ensured that the President’s traditional ‘At Home’ reception moved indoors to the Ashoka and Durbar Halls of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (presidential palace) instead of the magnificent Mughal Gardens. The UAE Crown Prince met with guests from across the political spectrum before departing for the airport to return home.
Meanwhile, in Dubai, as a special tribute to India on its 68th Republic Day, Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, has been lit up in the colours of the Indian flag. The musical fountains next to the world’s tallest building leapt to the music of ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, while a mile-high electronic flag of India draped the Burj.