The country celebrated its 69th Republic Day on January 26, 2018 with ten Heads of State/Government from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), clearly signifing our strengthening relations with the ASEAN nations. Keeping in sync with our 'Act East Policy'.
The leaders of ASEAN as Chief Guests at the Republic Day Parade were the Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Dr Thongloun Sisoulith; Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuân Phúc; the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK); Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, General Prayut Chan-o-cha; Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato', Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak; Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong; Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen; President of the Republic of the Philippines, Rodrigo Roa Duterte; President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo and Prime Minister of Brunei, Darussalam Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah.
Rajpath came alive on 26th morning when the nation showcased her military might and traditions coupled with the latest initiatives and achievements along with her rich diverse social and cultural heritage. Another feather in this year's pageant were two tableaux showcasing our historical, civilizational, educational, religious and cultural linkages with the ASEAN nations.
The parade ceremony commenced at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate where the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi lead the nation in paying homage to the martyrs by laying a wreath. An eternal flame burns at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate the indomitable courage of our Armed Forces personnel who have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of the motherland. The Amar Jawan, the immortal soldier, is symbolised by a reversed rifle standing on its barrel and crested by a soldier's helmet.
The highlight of this year's parade was the Women's Motor Cycle team 'Seema Bhawani' of Border Security Force, raised at Central School of Motor Transport (CSMT), BSF Academy Tekanpur on 20th October 2016. The BSF motorcycle team 'Seema Bhawani' was led by Sub Inspector Stanzin Noryang. The splendid driving skills of 'Seema Bhawani' displayed stunts like Salute to President, Fish Riding, Side Riding, Faulaad, Prachand Baalay Shaktiman, Four Harmony, Mobile PT, Bull Fighting, Peacock, Sapt Rishi, Brahma Yog Guldasta, Wind Mill Formation, Seema Prahari, Bharat Ke Mustaid Prahari, Sarhad Ke Nigheban and Flag March Pyramid.
As per tradition, after unfurling the National Flag, the National Anthem was played with a 21 gun salute. The parade then commence and the President took the salute.
The parade was commanded by Lt General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area. Major General Rajpal Punia, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Delhi Area was the parade Second-in-Command.
Param Vir Chakra winners Subedar Major & Honorary Captain Bana Singh (Retd), Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers and Naib Subedar Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK Rifles and Ashok Chakra winners Major General Cyrus A Pithawalla (Retd), Lt Col Jas Ram Singh (Retd), Lt Colonel D Sreeram Kumar, Naib Subedar (Honorary) Chhering Mutup (Retd) and Shri Govind Singh of district Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh & Shri Bhure Lal of district Guna also from Madhya Pradesh followed the Deputy Parade Commander on Jeeps.
The marching contingents started with flag bearer contingent bearing the ASEAN and 10 ASEAN countries' flags followed by the Indian Army Band drawn from 39 Gorkha Training Centre and 1 EME Centre.
The Indian Army's T-90 tank (Bhishma), Ballway Machine Pikate (II/IIK), Brahmos Missile System, Weapon Locating Radar (Swathi), Bridge Laying Tank T-72, Mobile Base Transceiver Station and Akash Weapon System were the main draw in the mechanised columns.
The marching contingent of the Army included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Punjab Regiment, Maratha Light Infantry, the Dogra Regiment, Ladakh Scouts, the Regiment of Artillery and 123 Infantry Battalion - Territorial Army (Grenadiers) followed by the tableau of Ex-Servicemen.
The marching contingent of the Navy comprising 144 young sailors were led by Lieutenant Tushar Gautam, while the Indian Air Force contingent comprising 144 men was led by Squadran Leader Attal Singh Shekhon. The Paramilitary and other auxiliary civil forces included the Border Security Force marching as well as Camel Contingents, Indian Coast Guard, Sashastra Seema Bal, Indo Tibetan Border Police, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme.
This year the Indian Navy's Tableau theme was "Indian Navy – Combat Ready Force for National Security". The tableau showcased proudly illustrates the combat potential of the multi-dimensional Indian Navy of the 21st Century.
An Indian Air Force Tableau rolled down the Rajpath with the theme "Indian Air Force Encouraging Indigenisation". Models displayed in the tableau were Tejas Multirole Fighter Aircraft, Rudra Helicopter, Arudhra Radar and Akash missile system.
Tableaux from 14 States and UT, Nine Central Ministries, Departments and Central Paramilitary Force presented the varied historical, art and cultural heritage of the country. They also showcased the country's progress in different fields, particularly floats from Karnataka, Gujarat, Tripura, Maharashtra, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur and Kerala with their varied themes. The floats of All India Radio, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Income Tax Department showcased the rapid development of some of the flagship programmes of the Government.
Eighteen children, including seven girls selected for the National Bravery Award–2017 also participated in the parade. In the children's pageant section, over 800 boys and girls drawn from three schools in Delhi and a group of school children from South Central Zone Cultural Centre, Nagpur and North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur performed colourful dances on varied themes.
The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by the IAF. The flypast commenced with the 'Rudra' formation comprising three ALH Mk IV WSI helicopters in 'Vic' formation, followed by the 'Hercules' formation comprising three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in 'Vic' formation. Trailing them was the 'Netra' which is an Airborne Early Warning and Control System Aircraft also known as "Eye in the Sky". It was followed by the 'Globe formation' comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30 MKIs.
Next in line were the fighters, where three LCA aircraft Tejas flew in 'Vic' formation followed by five Jaguars in Arrowhead formation. Another five MiG-29 Upgrade Air Superiority Fighters flew in Fulcrum style. Then the breath-taking 'Trishul' formation comprising three Su-30 MKIs flew over the Rajpath, and once in front of the saluting dais, the Su-30 MKI aircraft split upwards, making a Trishul in the sky. The flypast concluded with another Su-30 MKI carrying out a 'Vertical Charlie' manoeuvre over the saluting dais.
The ceremony culminated with the national anthem and release of balloons.
pix: Sathish Kumar, PD Gupta, Naresh Kumar, Vijay Kumar, GD Mehra, Fulchand Kitadikar and Rakesh Mangaraj