PM pays homage to the unknown soldier
64th Republic Day celebrations began Saturday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paying homage to the unknown soldier at the India
Gate war memorial in the heart of the capital.
With the three service chiefs in attendance,
New Delhi: There was a
perfect blend of indigenous military hardware and rich cultural
diversity at India's 64th Republic Day parade here Saturday, as
the country showcased its rapid military strides as well as its
roots with the past.
Time was when almost all the hardware on display was of foreign
origin. This time around, it was the opposite barring few
exceptions. And what was on view was itself an exercise in
Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk was the chief guest -
the third monarch from the Himalayan kingdom to get the status,
after his father and grandfather.
The marching contingents from the armed forces, the paramilitary
and National Cadet Corps vied for attention besides school
students in traditional costumes and a breathtaking canvas
provided by tableaux from 19 states and government departments.
The highlight of the 100-minute parade was the nuclear-capable
5,000 km Agni-V ballistic missile developed by the Defence
Research and Development Organisation, flight-tested in April
Sent aloft from a self-contained road mobile launcher, the missile
provides India genuine deterrence capability and brings it at par
with an elite group of advanced countries.
Then there was the Arjun main battle tank that has long been in
development and whose kinks have finally been ironed out, setting
the stage for serial production.
Also on display was a versatile armoured amphibious dozer,
indigenously developed to support combat engineers with its
excellent earthmoving and amphibious capabilities in varied
The other army weaponry on show included the supersonic cruise
missile Brahmos, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher, a CBRN
(chemical, biological, radiological nuclear) warfare
reconnaissance vehicle, a bridge-laying tank and a mobile
integrated network terminal system.
The army's mechanized column display concluded with a flypast by
the Dhruv advanced light helicopter developed in the country.
Not to be outdone, the Indian Air Force displayed a model of its
soon to be acquired indigenous "eye in the sky" atop an Embraer
145 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The Indian Navy showed a replica of the INS Vikramaditya aircraft
carrier being acquired from Russia and expected to be inducted
this year to enhance its blue water capability.
Interspersed with the hardware were the marching contingents. Each
comprised 144 personnel with a fair sprinkling of women and
provided their own share of contrasts.
While the army columns were in the regulation olive green, a blaze
of colour was on view in their turbans - blue and white, red and
gold, orange and gold, deep green et al.
The navy was in black with white lanyards, belts and leggings, the
air force in blue and the paramilitaries in khakhi.
And there was the music: well loved tunes like "Saare Jahan Se
Aacha" and "Kadam Kadam Badaiye Ja" to name just two.
The parade was split almost equally between the military and
cultural elements, the latter bringing up the rear.
As for the tableaux, these dealt with a variety of themes: homage
to Swami Vivekananda (West Bengal), linking tradition with
technology through pashmina (Jammu and Kashmir), houseboats (Kerala),
100 years of Indian cinema (information and broadcasting
ministry), inclusion of people with disablities (social justice
ministry), and seasons (Central Public Works Department) made up
entirely of flowers.
A flypast by the air force provided the grand finale with the
piece de resistance being a lone Sukhoi Su-30MKI streaking into
the wild blue yonder in a Vertical Charlie manoeuvre.
The marching contingets go all the way to the 17-th century Red
Fort in the city's old quarters while the armoured units and the
cultural pageants stop at the India Gate lawns.
The celebrations began on a clear and sunny morning with Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh paying homage to the unknown soldier at
the India Gate war memorial in the heart of the capital.
The President's Bodyguard, resplendent in their red tunics, white
breeches and black boots, red and white pennants fluttering from
their lances held high, presented the National Salute.
The National Anthem was played and a 21-gun salute boomed out.
That was the signal for the parade to roll down Rajpath, the grand
boulevard that stretches three kilometres from Vijay Chowk at the
foot of the Raisina Hill that houses the Rashtrapati Bhawan.