The elite Black Cat commandoes and the made-in-India Tejas combat aircraft made their Republic Day debut on Thursday as India showcased its military might and rich cultural heritage under an overcast sky at the ceremonial boulevard Rajpath.
The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, witnessed the parade which included a 149-member marching contingent from the United Arab Emirates, also a first since India became a Republic in 1950.
While President Pranab Mukherjee took the salute, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat with Mohamed bin Zayed Al throughout the ceremony and they were seen sharing several light moments.
The large crowd, which braved loud drizzle and chilly conditions, cheered loudly as the contingent of the National Security Guard (NSG), popularly known as the Black Cat Commandos for their dress, trotted down Rajpath.
The parade also saw the fly-past of three Tejas at a height of 300 metres in a ‘Vic’ formation and the Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) developed by the DRDO.
Alongside the Crown Prince, the ceremonial parade was watched by vice president Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the country’s top political and military brass, besides the diplomatic community.
Tableaux from 17 states and Union Territories and six central ministries and departments showcased the varied historical, art and cultural heritage of the country.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was the theme of the tableau of the Central Board of Excise and Customs.
Twenty-one of the 25 children who won the National Bravery Award also participated in the parade. Four children have received the award posthumously.
The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by the Indian Air Force.
The marching contingents of Army included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Mechanised Infantry Regiment, the Bihar Regiment, the 39 Gorkha Training Centre, 58 Gorkha Training Centre, the Madras Engineering Group and Centre and 103 Infantry Battalion.
The Navy contingent comprised 144 young sailors and it was led by Lieutenant Aparna Nair.
In the children’s pageant section, about 600 boys and girls drawn from three schools in Delhi and a group of school children from South Central Zone Cultural Centre, Nagpur performed colourful dances on varied themes.
A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital turning the city into virtually an impregnable fortress. NSG snipers were deployed at all high-rises along the parade route.
As part of the multi-layered security, around 60,000 security personnel were deployed across the city.