New Delhi:Multi-hued images of the country’s rich cultural heritage and military prowess were showcased at the magnificent Rajpath here Saturday as the nation celebrated the 59th Republic Day amid tight security.
The colourful parade, the main attraction of the national celebrations, marched down the street connecting magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate as the nation’s first lady President Pratibha Patil took the customary 21-gun salute.French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the guest of honour this year.
Soldiers in battle regalia, scintillating show of air power, impressive floats depicting the diverse culture, the country’s prized armament and hundreds of colourfully-dressed dancing school children were part of the parade.
The march-past was watched by visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the chief guest, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the country’s top political and military brass besides the diplomatic community.
A large number of enthusiastic people came to witness the parade that culminated at the historic Mughal monument of Red Fort.
Minutes before the parade began, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force laid wreaths at Amar Jawan Jyoti, the war memorial at the India Gate where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid their lives defending the frontiers of the nation.
A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital in the wake of intelligence warning about possible strikes by terrorists.
Around 20,000 troops and police, including snipers on high-rise buildings, guarded the Indian capital and checked cars coming into the city. Sandbagged posts dotted the city centre. Snipers of National Security Guards were deployed at all high-rises along the parade route.
Every year, rebels call for the boycott of India’s Republic Day and often carry out attacks on security forces and government buildings to protest the country’s founding as a republic, but few incidents were reported this year in the run-up to the parade.