NEW DELHI: The 71st Republic Day parade on Sunday showcased India’s cultural diversity as well as military prowess with many firsts this year as hundreds of men, women and children wrapped in thick woollens braved the winter morning chill to watch the annual ceremony at the majestic Rajpath.
A blanket of thick fog that engulfed the city in the morning and tight security restrictions could not deter the enthusiastic crowd from gathering at Rajpath — a boulevard that runs from Rashtrap-ati Bhavan to India Gate.
The parade was attended by President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the chief guest, Brazil Preside-nt Jair Messias Bolsonaro.
Mr Modi, sporting a saffron turban received Mr Bolsonaro at the ceremony. This was the third time that a Brazilian President graced the Republic Day parade. Previous instan-ces were in 1996 and 2004.
The parade this year was marked by several firsts, starting with Mr Modi paying homage to soldiers killed in battle at the National War Memorial, instead of the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate.
Among the other firsts in the celebration was the display of Chinook and Apache helicopters in the flypast and showcasing of the A-SAT weapons system. A year after India successfully tested ASAT (anti-satellite) missile in March by shooting down its own decommissioned satellite, DRDO was represented by an ASAT table-au in this year’s parade for the first time. The Chino-oks can airlift diverse loads in remote locations and the Apache is a versatile helicopter capable of firing air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
In all, 22 tableaux participated in the parade. Jammu and Kashmir, which participated for the first time as a Union Territory, had the “Back to Village’’ theme for its tableau.
An all-woman bikers contingent of 65 Central Reserve Police Force officers performed nine stellar stunts on 18 Royal Enfield Classic 350s at the grand event. Leading the CRPF Mahila Bike Team was inspector Seema Nag who is posted with the Rapid Action Force (RAF). Marching for the first time in the parade was a contingent of the Corps of Army Air Defence that was recently awarded colours by the President of India.
In another first, Dhanush artillery — a towed Howitzer designed indigenously by the Ordnance Factory Board — was seen at the parade. The finale, one of the most awaited segments of the parade, was marked by a breathtaking flypast that too saw many new elements. For starters, there were three Advanced Light Helicopters — one each from the Army, Navy and Air Force flying past the saluting dias....