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Military might on display at India's Republic Day parade

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Marching contingents at Rajpath during 64th Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: PTI.

NEW DELHI (PTI): A kaleidoscopic view of the country's rich cultural heritage and military prowess were on display at the 64th Republic Day parade on Saturday on the 8-km stretch from Rajpath to Red Fort.

An eager audience on both sides of the imposing Rajpath, the country's ceremonial boulevard facing the seat of power Raisina Hills, braved the winter chill and cheered loudly as the parade went past them portraying the rich and diverse culture of the country.

The icing on the cake was the 5,500-5,800 km ballistic Agni-V missile mounted on a road mobile launcher which was paraded by the Defence Research & Development Organisation as the crowd lapped it up with loud cheer.

General Officer Commanding (Delhi) Lt. General Subroto Mitra led the synchronised military and police contingents as they marched to the cheerful tunes of bands through the 2-km Rajpath where President Pranab Mukherjee, also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, took the salute for the first time after assuming office in July last year.

The impressive march-past was watched by Chief Guest, Bhutan king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and top political and military brass.

Police and other para-military forces turned Delhi into a virtual fortress for the Republic Day celebrations as helicopters scanned from air, snipers kept a hawk-eye vigil from rooftops and armed personnel at every nook and corner provided a ground-to-air security apparatus.

Minutes before the parade began, Singh, Antony and chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force laid wreaths at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti', an eternal flame in the memory of those who laid down their lives while defending the nation.

After the customary 21-gun salute and unfurling of the national tricolour by President Mukherjee, the spectacle began with four army helicopters flying above Rajpath carrying the national flag and the three flags of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The country showed its military strength with the MBT Arjun Tank, Armoured Ambulance Tracked Vehicle, BRAHMOS missiles and 214 mm Pinaka rockets, 15 Metre Sarvatra Bridging System.

The Army contingent from horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, Mechanised Infantry Regiment, Maratha Light Infantry, Dogra Regiment, Garhwal Rifles, Ladakh Scouts, 8 Gorkha Training Centre, Army Ordnance Corps and Territorial Army (Punjab) marched to the martial tunes.

The next to follow were smartly-dressed Navy personnel and then the Air Force contingent. The Air Force contingent was led by Flight Lieutenant Heena Pore.

A mini version of INS Vikramaditya which will join the naval fleet by the end of this year was also part of the parade which highlighted Indian Navy's blue water operating capability.

The DRDO displayed the Armoured Amphibious Dozer (AAD), an indigenously developed versatile Combat Engineer support equipment with excellent earth moving and amphibious capabilities in varied terrain. Airborne Early Warning and Control System and Naval Sonar were also displayed.

Other marching contingents were those of camel-mounted BSF, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, RPF, Delhi Police, NCC and NSS.

As the country's armed and police forces demonstrated their might, states and different departments put up an impressive show when they showcased their rich cultural diversity in full display in 19 tableaux -- 14 from states and five from ministries.

The grand finale of the parade was the spectacular flypast by the IAF.

The flypast was led by a Vic formation of three Mi-35 helicopters, followed by the three Super Hercules again in a Vic formation followed by C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

Trailing them was an IL-78, flanked by two AN-32 and two Dornier, in a Big Boy formation and next in line was the fighters, - five Jaguars followed by five MiG-29 in Arrowhead formation.

The breathtaking Trishul formation comprising three Su-30 MKIs flew over the Rajpath and once in front of the saluting dais, the Su-30MKI aircraft split upwards, making a Trishul in the sky. The flypast concluded with another Sukhoi Su-30 MKI carrying out a Vertical Charlie manoeuvre over the saluting dais.

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