India celebrates 71st Republic Day with 90-minute display of military might, cultural diversity and socio-economic progress

New Delhi: India celebrated its 71st Republic Day on Sunday with a 90-minute display of military might, cultural diversity and socio-economic progress. The armed forces took centre-stage parading an array of weapons, the Defence Reserch Organisation put up a display of state-of-the-art technology and the 22 tableaux held a spectacular display of colours, art and lifestyle. Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro was the Chief Guest. The ceremony started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a first, visiting the National War Memorial instead of the Amar Jawan Jyoti, where he paid tributes to soldiers who died fighting for the country.
The highlights were the Army’s battle tank Bhishma, Infantry Combat Vehicle Ballway Machine Pikate and the Air Force’s brand new Rafale fighter jet and Chinook and Apache helicopters. Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASAT) from Mission Shakti, the Dhanush artillery, the newly-inducted Chinook heavy lift and Apache attack choppers were at display for the first time.
There was a total of 16 marching contingents, six from the army and the rest from Navy, Air Force, Central Armed Police Forces, the Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and the National Service Scheme.
For the second consecutive year, a woman officer led an all-male contingent. The Corps of Signals marched down the Rajpath, led by Captain Tania Sher Gill, who recently made history by becoming the first woman Parade Adjutant to lead all-men contingents during the Army Day function.
The 61st Cavalry in the uniform of the erstwhile Gwalior Lancers, the only active horse cavalry regiment in the world, raised in 1953, also took part in the march.
The Air Force contingent, comprising 144 air warriors, was led by Flight Lieutenant Shrikant Sharma. The tableau showcased scaled-down models of the newly-acquired French-made Rafale fighter jet, the indigenous Tejas aircraft and the Light Combat Helicopter, as well as the Akash and Astra missile systems.
The Indian Navy showcased its assets — the Boeing P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft, the Kolkata Class Destroyer and the Kalvari Class submarine. The Naval contingent comprised 144 young sailors led by Lieutenant Jitin Malkat.
Twenty-two tableaux – 16 from states and union territories and the rest from various ministries and departments – took part in the Republic Day parade. Certain states, such as Bengal and Kerala, were not being represented after their tableau ideas were rejected by the centre.
The grand finale, and one of the most keenly awaited segments of the parade, was the fly-past with the “Trishul” formation being carried out by three Advanced Light Helicopters. For the first time, a “tri-service formation” also took part in a Republic Day parade. This was followed by a “Vic” formation of Chinook helicopters.