New Delhi: The overcast sky stood out in strong contrast to the magnificent men in uniform marching in precise unison at Rajpath, India’s ceremonial boulevard, during the 68th Republic Day celebrations parade on Thursday.
With the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan attending the event as the guest of honour, a 149-member marching contingent from UAE comprising soldiers from different forces, led by a band comprising 35 musicians from the Gulf country, led the parade. He was seated next to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wore a pink-coloured ‘safa’ (turban).
After the unfurling of the Tricolour, the National Anthem was played followed by a 21-gun salute.
President Pranab Mukherjee took the salute of the marching contingents. Alongside the Crown Prince, the ceremonial parade was watched by vice-president Hamid Ansari, former PM Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the country’s top political and military brass, besides the diplomatic community.
The parade was commanded by Lt. Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area while the Army marching contingents included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Mechanised Infantry Regiment, and soldiers from the Bihar Regiment, Gorkha Regiment, Madras Engineering Group among others.
The Navy contingent comprised 144 young sailors led by Lieutenant Aparna Nair. A number of weapons systems and aircraft including the homemade Tejas light combat jets and the Airborne Early Warning and Control System developed by DRDO were on display, showcasing India’s military prowess.
The Indian Army’s missile firing T-90 ‘Bhishma’ tank, Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP-2K, Mobile Autonomous Launcher of the BrahMos Missile System, Weapon Locating Radar ‘Swathi’ and Akash Weapons System, and Dhanush artillery guns were among the main draw in the mechanised columns.
Tableaux from 17 states and Union Territories and six central ministries and departments showcased the varied historical, artistic and cultural heritage of the country. Interestingly, Goods and Services Tax was the theme of the tableau of Central Board of Excise and Customs.
Another highlight is when 21 of the 25 children who won the National Bravery Award also participated. The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular fly-past by the Air Force which displayed various formations leaving spectators spell-bound. The ‘Hercules’ formation comprising three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft drew loud cheers.