India celebrated its 69th Republic Day today, with a record 10 Heads of State, from ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, watching the grand parade with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rajpath, the ceremonial road in the heart of Delhi. The leaders, sporting crimson Indian scarves, sat on a 100-foot stage enclosed by bullet-proof glass, their presence demonstrating India’s stress on upgrading its ‘Look East’ policy to ‘Act East’. At the start of the ceremony, the Prime Minister, in a saffron, red and green safa or traditional headgear, paid homage to soldiers who died in the line of duty.
Here are top 10 points on the 69th Republic Day celebrations:
1)India’s highest peacetime military decoration Ashok Chakra was given to Indian Air Force Garud commando Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala, who died fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir last year. The soldier’s wife and mother received the award from President Ram Nath Kovind.
2)Tableaux showcasing India’s deep historical, cultural and religious ties with the ASEAN nations were among the first of the floats gliding down Rajpath.
3)These were followed by floats from 14 states and Union Territories, nine ministries, departments and paramilitary forces.
4)Union ministers in the audience were seen standing and applauding displays from their ministries. Many were seen standing and cheering the float from PM Modi’s home state Gujarat, which celebrated “a century of Sabarmati Ashram and Gandhi”.
5)An all-women contingent of the Border Security Force or BSF performing daring bike stunts was among the most stunning spectacles at the parade. Stunts like “fish riding, side riding, faulaad, peacock and Saptarishi”, with the women constables in incredible formations, were cheered wildly by the crowds.
6)The Army’s T-90 tank, Brahmos Missile System and Akash Weapon System were the main draw in the military contingent. The Air Force tableau displayed models of the home-made Tejas Multirole Fighter Aircraft, Rudra Helicopter, Arudhra Radar and Akash missile system.
7)The show stopper was the Indian Air Force’s air display starring C-130J Super Hercules, C-17 Globemaster, Su-30 MKIs and LCA Tejas.
8)There was loud applause as children awarded for their bravery appeared. Of 18 winners, three children have been honoured posthumously.
9)PM Modi’s invite to the 10 leaders marks a significant outreach in the face of China’s growing influence in the region. “We are committed to working with ASEAN for maritime cooperation,” the PM said at the India-ASEAN summit yesterday, in what was seen as a message to China.
10)Nearly 60,000 personnel of the Delhi Police and central security forces were posted in central Delhi. Snipers were stationed on top of high-rise buildings along the parade route.>