The 69th Republic Day celebrations on Friday began with much splendour, as the country exhibited its military might and cultural prowess before 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chief guests at the Republic Day parade here. Nearly 60,000 security personnel drawn from the Delhi Police and central security forces were deployed in Central Delhi. Snipers had also been stationed on top of high-rise buildings while scores of CCTV cameras kept a tight vigil on people's movements on the parade route. HIGHLIGHTS OF 69TH REPUBLIC DAY
The ceremony kicked off with President Ram Nath Kovind awarding Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime military decoration, to wife and mother of Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala, a Garud Commando of the Indian Air Force (IAF) who died fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
Highlights of this year's Republic Day parade
1. ASEAN flag bearer contingent at the R-Day parade
The marching contingents started with flag bearer contingent bearing the 10 ASEAN countries’ flags followed by the Indian Army Band drawn from 39 Gorkha Training Centre and 1 EME Centre.
2. Women bikers of BSF enthralled audiences
The first ever contingent of women BSF bikers performed acrobatics and daredevil stunts on Rajpath leaving the crowds as well as the leaders of 10 ASEAN countries mesmerised.
In the age group of 20 to 31, the riders led by Sub-Inspector Stanzin Noryang, 28, from Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region, were applauded and cheered by the crowds.
3. After 20 years, ITBP float returned to Republic Day featuring China border
After a gap of 20 years, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) tableau featured in the Republic Day parade 2018, showing troops patrolling the China border on their newly-inducted snow scooters. The ITBP is the only one among the multiple paramilitary and border guarding forces that will have a tableau in the parade.
4. Indigenous Subsonic Cruise Missile 'Nirbhay' maiden appearance
The Defence Development and Research Organisation exhibited the 'Nirbhay' missile and the Ashwini radar system at the Republic Day Parade, in a maiden appearence. This year the Indian Navy's tableau showcased the theme 'Indian Navy Combat Ready Force for National Security'. The Navy also displayed its Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant, which will be commissioned in 2020.
5. BSF's camel contingent and camel-mounted band at the R-Day parade
Border Security Force's camel contingent and camel mounted band, the glory of Republic Day parade performed this year too. Camels were provided a special diet and made to exercise for 40 minutes. BSF troops on camels, holding various modern arms of combat and the camel band inspired as well as elevated the head and heart of millions of viewers. The band, which is a creative and innovative way of presenting martial music, has gone through various stages of evolution.
Rajpath brims with India's military might, cultural diversity once again
The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by MI-17 and RUDRA armed helicopters along with a number of IAF aircraft.
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.
Trailing them were the 'Netra' which is an Airborne Early Warning and Control System Aircraft also known as 'Eye in the Sky'.
The parade was commanded by Lt. General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area. Twenty three tableaux, including those representing various states, ministries, the All India Radio (AIR) among others, rolled down the Rajpath. Tableaux from 14 states and union territories showcased the historical, art and cultural heritage of the country. The Indian Army's T-90 tank (Bhishma), Brahmos Missile System, Weapon Locating Radar (Swathi), Bridge Laying Tank T-72 and Akash weapon system was the main draw in the mechanised columns. The Indian Air Force displayed models of the indigenously developed Tejas light combat aircraft among other platforms. However, the show stopper was the Indian Air Force's air display featuring C-130J Super Hercules, C-17 Globemaster, Su-30 MKIs and Tejas aircraft.
Thousands of people on both sides of the Rajpath, India's ceremonial boulevard facing the seat of power at Raisina Hill, braved the winter chill and cheered loudly as the marching contingents and tableaux went past them. The ASEAN leaders, some of whom were accompanied by their spouses, watched the grand parade, sitting on a 100-foot stage along with President Ram Nath Kovind and Modi. Before the beginning of the ceremony marking the date when India's Constitution came into force in 1950, the prime minister, wearing a saffron, red and green 'safa', paid homage to the martyrs by laying a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wore a traditional headgear, hosted the 10 heads of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at Rajpath in an unprecedented event. It was for the first time that leaders of 10 ASEAN countries were chief guests at the Republic Day parade.
They 10 ASEAN heads who attended the grand event were--President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha of Thailand, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar and Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.
Breaking away from tradition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a long walk on the Rajpath to greet the spectators after the Republic Day Parade, amid cheers and chants of "Modi, Modi".
The cheers grew louder as he went close to seating enclosures with the spectators waving back at him and jostling to get a glimpse of the prime minister.
This is not the first time that Modi went past the security cover to greet audience. Last year, after his Independence Day speech at the Red Fort, Modi moved out of his security cordon to shake hands with children.
Besides this, 61 tribal guests from various parts of the country on behalf of the Centre had been invited to witness the Republic Day celebrations.
Fifteen of the 18 children who won the National Bravery Award also participated in the parade. Three children, including two girls, have received the award posthumously. Of the 18 children, seven are girls and 11 are boys.
In the children's section, over 800 boys and girls drawn from three schools in Delhi along with a group of school children from Nagpur and Dimapur, performed colourful dances on different themes.