New Delhi. 26 January 2020. It was the 71st Republic Day of India and its military might was on full showcase at Rajpath. Anti-satellite weapon – Mission Shakthi developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Army’s battle tank Bhishma, infantry combat vehicles, Air Forces’ newly inducted Chinook and Apache helicopters, in addition to tableaux depicting Akash and Astra missiles and Navy’s prowess all reiterated India’s strength to defend the nation.
President of India Ram Nath Kovind hosted this year’s chief guest President of the Federative Republic of Brazil Jair Messias Bolsonaro. The 38th President of Brazil, President Bolsonaro has successfully completed the pro-tempore presidency of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The relations between India and Brazil are based on a common global vision, shared democratic values and a commitment to foster inclusive economic growth for the welfare of the people of both countries. Brazil was the first Latin American nation to establish diplomatic relations with India in 1948. The ties were elevated to a strategic partnership in 2006, opening a new phase in the bilateral relations.
The Republic Day Parade ceremony commenced with a first deviation from tradition when Prime Minister Narendra Modi lead the nation in paying solemn tributes to the martyrs by laying a wreath at the National War Memorial instead of Amar Jawan Jyoti. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the three service chiefs also paid homage at the National War Memorial.The Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister for State Shripad Yesso Naik also accompanied the Prime Minister.
The National Flag was unfurled followed by the National Anthem with a booming 21-gun salute. The parade commanded by Parade Commander, Lieutenant General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area with Major General Alok Kacker, Chief of Staff, Delhi Area was the Parade Second-in-Command, commenced with President Kovind taking the salute.
The winners of the Param Vir Chakra and the Ashok Chakra followed them on Rajpath. Param Vir Chakra winners Subedar Major & Honorary Captain Bana Singh (Retd), Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers and Subedar Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK Rifles and Ashok Chakra winners Major General Cyrus A Pithawalla (Retd), Lieutenant Colonel Jas Ram Singh (Retd), Lieutenant Colonel D Sreeram Kumar and Naib Subedar (Honorary) ChheringMutup (Retd) were on jeeps and attracted the nation for their bravery. The Param Vir Chakra is awarded for the most conspicuous act of bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of the enemy. The Ashok Chakra is awarded for similar acts of valour and self-sacrifice but, other than, in the face of the enemy.
The first contingent in the uniform was the erstwhile Gwalior Lancers now 61 Cavalry led by Captain Deepanshu Sheoran. The 61 Cavalry is the only active serving horse cavalry regiment in the world. It was raised on August 01, 1953 with the amalgamation of six state forces’ cavalry units. In addition the Indian Army was represented by eight mechanised columns, six marching contingents and fly-past by Rudra and Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters of the Army Aviation.
Indigenously-developed Main Battle Tank of the Indian Army, T-90 Bhishma, Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) Ballway Machine Pikate (BMP)-II, K-9 VAJRA-T, Dhanush Gun System, newly-inducted five-metre Short Span Bridging System, Sarvatra Bridge System, Transportable Satellite Terminal and Akash weapon system were the main attractions in the mechanised columns.
The other marching contingents of the Army included the Parachute Regiment, the Grenadiers Regiment, the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment, the Kumaon Regiment and the Corps of Signals. The Combined Band of the Armoured Corps Centre & School, Madras Engineers Group & Centre and Artillery Regimental Centre, the Combined Band of 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre, 39 Gorkha Training Centre, Kumaon Regimental Centre and Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre also marched past the saluting dais. Marching for the first time on Republic Day was the contingent of the Corps of Army Air Defence.
The Naval contingent comprised of 144 young sailors led by Lieutenant Jitin Malkat as Contingent Commander. It was followed by the Naval Tableau titled ‘Indian Navy – Silent, Strong, and Swift’. The fore part of the tableau showcased the might and fire power of Navy in all three dimensions, while the next part exhibits the Navy’s commitment to nation building.
The Air Force contingent, comprising of 144 air warriors, was led by Flight Lieutenant Shrikant Sharma. The Air Force tableau showcased scaled down models of the Rafale aircraft, the Tejas aircraft, the Light Combat Helicopter, the Akash Missiles System and the Astra Missiles.
The Veterans’ tableau, marking the recognition and respect to the soldiers’ selfless service to the nation, showcased the theme ‘Force behind the Force’.
One of the main highlights was the marching contingent of DRDO that displayed Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASAT) – Mission Shakti. ASAT (Anti-Satellite) weapons play a critical role in providing the necessary strategic deterrence. Mission Shakti, India’s first Anti-Satellite (ASAT) mission, was a major breakthrough in demonstrating the nation’s Anti-Satellite technology. The second equipment of DRDO was the Air Defence Tactical Control Radar (ADTCR) used for volumetric surveillance, detection, tracking and friend/foe identification of aerial targets of different types and transmission of prioritised target data to multiple command posts/weapon systems.
The Indian Coast Guard marching contingent was led by Deputy Commandant Gaurav Sharma. The motto of the Indian Coast Guard is ‘VayamRakshamah’ meaning ‘We Protect’.
The contingents of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Delhi Police and Border Security Force (BSF) also marched past the saluting dais. For the first time CRPF women contingent were seen as dare devils displaying their expertise at the Rajpath by displaying stunts both individually and as a group
The National Cadet Corps (NCC) Boys Marching contingent led by Commander Junior Under-Officer Charandeep Singh Bhaduria, NCC Directorate Uttar Pradesh, while the Girls contingent headed by Senior Under-Officer Shreeshma Hegde, NCC Directorate, Karnataka & Goa represented the young India. The National Service Scheme (NSS) contingent comprising 148 volunteers also took part.
For the first time, a contingent of women bikers of CRPF performed daredevil stunts. The contingent was led by Inspector Seema Nag who will be seen saluting while standing atop a moving motorcycle. The bikers will perform several daring acts on moving bikes before a human pyramid on multiple motorcycles bring up the rear.
The grand finale and the most keenly awaited segment of the parade, was the Fly Past comprising of the ‘Trishul’ formation by three ALH helicopters. It was for the first time that a “Tri-service Formation” took part in the Republic Day Parade. It was followed by the ‘Vic’ formation of Chinook helicopters, used for airlifting diverse loads to remote locations. Apache helicopters, Dornier aircraft, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, Netra, an Airborne Early Warning and Control System aircraft and the ‘Globe’ formation comprising three C-17 Globemasters are some of the other highlights. Five Jaguar Deep penetration strike aircraft and five MiG-29 Upgrade Air Superiority Fighters in ‘Arrowhead’ formation enthralled the audience before the exhilarating Trishul manoeuvre by Su-30 MKIs. The parade culminated with a Su-30 MKI splitting the sky with a breath taking ‘Vertical Charlie’ aerobatic manoeuvre.
The celebrations, which boasted one of India’s largest military parades, took place at a time when the nation is facing economic and political challenges. Even as the nation was celebrating the day it got an operative constitution, demonstrators protested at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and in many places throughout the nation opposing the CAA & the NRC. A jam packed audience and the resplendent display at Rajpath once again proves the point that the national pride takes the cake for the citizen.