New Delhi: India on Friday celebrated its 69th Republic Day as the Rajpath, the capital's main promenade, came alive with march pasts and colourful tableaux to showcase the country's military might, cultural legacy and its initiatives, with 10 Asean leaders as chief guests watching the proceedings.
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.
The parade ceremony commenced with Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate to pay homage to the fallen soldier.
President Ram Nath Kovind took his first Republic Day salute from various wings of the Indian Army, the Air Force and the Navy.
India for the first time in its history of republic hosted 10 heads of state or government of the Asean countries as guests of honour for the annual parade.
The Indian Army's T-90 tank (Bhishma), Ballway Machine Pikate (II/IIK), Brahmos Missile System, weapon locating radar (Swathi), bridge laying tank T-72, mobile base transceiver station and Akash weapon system were the main draw in the mechanised columns.
Tableaux showcasing India's deep historical, cultural and religious ties with the ASEAN nations were among the first of the floats gliding down Rajpath. These were followed by floats from 14 states and Union Territories, nine ministries, departments and paramilitary forces.
The highlight of today's Republic Day Parade at Rajpath however was Border Security Force (BSF) or Indian Army motorcycle riders performing at the annual parade.
Every year, the 'Daredevils', as they are called, ride along Rajpath, performing magnificent stunts that leave the audience spellbound.
This year's parade saw a similar spectacle. The Rajpath crowd was up on its feet, applauding the 'daredevilry' of the BSF's motorcycle riders (the Army and the BSF alternate every year) as they rode past in acrobatic formations.
There, however, was a major difference: The 113 riders seen riding the 26 350-cc Royal Enfield motorbikes today were all women, part of the BSF's newly raised all-female 'Daredevils' team.
Christened 'Seema Bhawani', the women bikers, led by sub-inspector Stanzin Noryang, became the first all-woman contingent from any force to performing biking stunts at the Republic Day parade.
The parade was commanded by Lt General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area. The supreme commander of the Indian armed forces president Kovind took the salute at the parade.
Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Singaporean Premier Lee Hsien Loong and Brunei's Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah were among the ASEAN leaders who attended the event.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Laos Thongloun Sisoulith and Cambodian Premier Hun Sen also watched the grand parade.
The ceremony ended with the playing of the national anthem and the release of thousands of balloons.
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