The national capital was on Tuesday wrapped in a security blanket for the 67th Republic Day celebrations, with 50,000 armed officers of Delhi Police, NSG and paramilitary forces maintaining hawk-eye vigil to ensure a safe visit of the chief guest, French President Francois Hollande.
All entry points to in the city, which has already been put on high alert after the recent attack on the Pathankot airbase and pan-India arrests of over a dozen suspected Islamic State sympathisers, were under the strict watch to pre-empt any possible terror strike.
Hollande will be the fifth French president to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations over the decades.
He will be chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, an invitation Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended to show solidarity after the assault on the French capital which killed 130 people. Hollande and Modi will sit together at the annual parade, a pomp-filled spectacle of military might which includes columns of Soviet-era tanks.
Police said that 50,000 security personnel -- around 15,000 from the paramilitary forces, 34,000 from Delhi Police and 1,000 from National Security Guard (NSG) -- were being deployed on the streets of the capital from 5am on January 26. The city will be under close watch of 15,000 CCTV cameras on Republic Day.
NSG snipers will maintain vigil from high-rise buildings within a 2km radius of Rajpath, the spacious central vista of the capital from where the French president along with President Pranab Mukherjee and PM Modi will be watching the parade.
In significant remarks against the backdrop of the Pathankot attack, President Mukherjee said on Monday that disagreement with neighbours should be resolved through dialogue but “we cannot discuss peace under a shower of bullets”.
He also said terrorism is a war beyond any doctrine and is a “cancer which must be operated out with a firm scalpel”. “There is no good or bad terrorism; it is pure evil,” the President said in his address to the nation on the eve of 67th Republic Day.
He urged Indians to shun “violence, intolerance and unreason”.
The Republic Day parade parade will begin at 9.50am and last till 12.30pm.
Officials said that as part of heightened security arrangements, the city will be declared a no-fly zone, covering a radius of nearly 300 km, for civilian aircraft during the parade. A seven-layer security ring will guard the enclosure that would be used by Hollande, Mukherjee and Modi.
India Gate and Rajpath have already been shut to people and the area is under constant guard by security personnel.
The airspace over the capital will be monitored by special radars, the officials added.
Republic Day Delhi traffic advisory
Vehicle movements from Vijay Chowk to India Gate on Rajpath were restricted from 3pm on Monday till the parade is over on Tuesday (January 26) afternoon.
Traffic on some major arterial roads in New Delhi like Rafi Marg, Janpath, Man Singh Road will be stopped from 11pm on Monday till the end of the parade.
Vehicles, barring those with control and duty lables, will not be permitted to ply in some other New Delhi area, including South Avenue, Thyag Raj Marg, K. Kamraj Marg, Sunheri Masjid, Maulana Azad Road, Akbar Road between Man Singh Road and C-Hexagon, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road, Red Cross Road, Sansad Marg, Imtiaz Khan Road, Rakab Ganj Road, Pt. Pant Marg and Church Road.
Only labelled vehicles of the invitees and vehicles of bona-fide residents of the restricted area shall be permitted to enter.
Delhi Metro rail service will remain available for commuters at all stations during the parade.
The entry and exit at Patel Chowk and Race Course stations, however, will remain closed from 8.45am to 12.30pm, and the Central Secretariat station will only be used for interchange of passengers.
Entry and exit at the Central Secretariat and Udyog Bhawan stations will remain closed from 6am to 12pm on January 26, officials said.