As India is celebrating its 71st Republic Day, the official functions began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying his tributes to martyrs by laying a wreath at the National War Memorial in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the three service chiefs and Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro on Sunday joined a select group of world leaders to have graced India’s Republic Day celebrations in the past few decades. Bolsonaro, as the chief guest at the 71st Republic Day celebrations, watched the colourful parade at the majestic Rajpath along with President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other leaders.
This is the first visit of President Bolsonaro to India after he assumed office on January 1, 2019. Invitation to President Bolsonaro had drawn criticism from certain quarters with questions raised over a “controversial” figure like him being chosen to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
This is the third time that a Brazilian President was the chief guest at the Republic Day. The last time a Brazilian President was the chief guest was in 2004 when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attended the parade.
Later Modi reached Rajpath and greeted President Ram Nath Kovind and the chief guest.
This was followed by President Ram Nath Kovind unfurling the tricolour. During the unfurling of the tricolour, the band played the national anthem with a 21-gun salute in the background.
Most ministers of the central government, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar were present on the occasion along with former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Deve Gowda, and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The parade at Rajpath started with the parade commander reaching the saluting dias under a shower of flower petals by Mi-17 helicopters. Then came the the Akash missile system, a potent surface to air defense against enemy fighter planes.
The Para Special Forces, leading the marching contingents down the Rajpath was followed by the Grenadiers Regiment which is one of the most decorated regiments of the Indian Army.
The marching contingent of the Navy along with their world famous Brass Band too participated in the parade.
Defence Research And Development Organisation (DRDO) displayed Anti-Satellite Weapon-Mission Shakti for the first time, a breakthrough in war weapons, Shakti is proof of the country’s capacity in bringing down enemy satellites.
The BSF’s marching contingent of camel mounted soldiers with more than 75 different items dress the camels and its riders creating a riot of colours at the Rajpath.
Winners of the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Baal Puraskar too came on the Rajpath amid thunderous applaud.
The ‘Dhanush’ gun system, commanded by Captain Mrigank Bharadwaj, was part of the Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath for the first time on Sunday. The 155mm/45 Caliber Dhanush gun system is a towed Howitzer designed indigenously by the Ordnance Factory Board.
India’s rich diversity was displayed stunningly as twenty-two tableaux rolled down the Rajpath. While 16 of them from States and Union Territories, remaining six were from various ministries. Certain states, such as Bengal and Kerala, did not take part after their tableau ideas were rejected by the centre earlier.
The twenty one motorcycle borne dare devil women of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) led by Inspector Seema Nag performed some amazing stunts.
The Air Force was represented by 144 air warriors led by Flight Lieutenant Shrikant Sharma. The tableau showcased models of the Rafale fighter jet, the indigenously built Tejas aircraft, the Light Combat Helicopter. The Akash and Astra missile systems too were on display.
The Navy’s contingent comprised of 144 sailors led by Lieutenant Jitin Malkat. The Boeing P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft, the Kolkata Class Destroyer and the Kalvari Class submarine were at display to showcase the naval might of India.
Woman officer Tania Sher Gill led an all-male contingent of the Corps of Signals. She recently led all-men contingents during the Army Day function for the first time, creating history.
In a display of the military might of India, for the first time Army’s battle tank Bhishma, Infantry Combat Vehicle Ballway Machine Pikate, Air Force’s new entrant Rafale fighter jet, Chinook and Apache helicopters, Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASAT) from Mission Shakti, Dhanush artillery were at display for the first time in this years Republic Day Parade.
The national capital, has been put under all-round security cover with thousands of security personnel keeping a tight vigil over it.