Military might, art heritage showcased on Republic Day
PTI NEW DELHI AN impressive display of armour and unmanned aerial vehicles recently added to India’s military prowess was on full display at the 63rd Republic Day parade on Thursday that also showcased the country’s rich heritage.
The early morning chill did not deter people along the eight-km-parade route as they gathered on both sides of the majestic Rajpath, the country’s ceremonial boulevard facing the Raisina Hills, and cheered the contingents as they went past portraying the diverse culture of the country.
The well-turned out and synchronised military and police formations led by General Officer Commanding (Delhi) Lt Gen VK Pillai marched proudly to the lilting tunes of bands through the Rajpath where President Pratibha Patil, who is the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, took salute.
The impressive march-past was watched by Chief Guest Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister AK Antony, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh and top political and military brass.
Minutes before the parade began, Singh, Antony and chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force laid wreaths at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, an eternal flame in the memory of those who laid down their lives while defending the nation.
Then, four Mi-17 helicopters zoomed in from skies on the western side showering flower petals on thousands of spectators, signalling the start of the impressive parade followed by winners of Param Vir Chakra, highest war-time gallantry award, and Ashok Chakra and mounted columns of 61 Cavalry. The Army showcased its impressive weaponry which included T-72 tanks, Carrier Motor Tracked vehicle, Smerch missile Launcher, Multi Barrel Rocket System ‘Pinaka’ and Full Width Mine Plough. It also displayed the NBC (Nuclear-Biological- Chemical) Chemical Purification System and Jammer Station.
Incidentally, Sneha Shekhawat from Sikar in Rajasthan on Thursday created history when she led the Air Force contingent at the 63rd Republic Day parade becoming the first woman pilot to do so. She was cheered by thousands of spectators as the commentator mentioned that she is the first woman to lead an Air Force contingent in the 63-year-old history of the parade.
The next to follow were smartly dressed Navy personnel and then the Air Force contingent, led by Flight Lieutenant Sneha Shekhawat, marching to the tunes of ‘Jai Bharati’ and ’Air Battle’.
The Navy showcased models of the Delhi Class guided missile destroyer and IL-38 (Sea Dragon) Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft.
The 3,000-km-range nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile, successfully flight tested in November last, stole the limelight as people cheered when the weapons system’s model came near them.
Commentaries gave an insight into the capabilities of the sophisticated missile system.
The DRDO also put on display for the first time the 150- km range Prahaar tactical battlefield support missile and the Rustom-1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
Other marching contingents were those of camel-mounted BSF, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, RPF, Delhi Police, NCC and NSS.
As the country’s armed and police forces demonstrated their might, States and different departments put up an impressive show when they showcased their rich cultural diversity in full display in 23 tableaux — 13 from states and 10 from ministries.
Another highlight of the event was that West Bengal became part of the parade after 13 years as it showcased the university town of Shantiniketan, the living abode of Rabindranath Tagore.