R Day parade showcases India's military might, cultural diversity

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New Delhi, Jan 26 (UNI) A unique blend of India's military might, economic development, scientific achievement and rich but diverse culture, the 59th Republic Day parade -- the first with a woman head of state -- made the heart of every citizen swell with pride as it wended its way down the majestic Rajpath.

The ceremony began on a poignant note with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accompanied by the three service chiefs, leading the nation in paying homage to martyrs by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti -- the eternal flame.

Thereupon, he returned to the review stand to receive Vice President Mohd Hamid Ansari, followed by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, who accompanied by this year's Chief Guest, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, arrived in a clatter of hooves, escorted by the armed horsemen of the President's Body Guard.

Mrs Patil then unfurled the national tricolour, before conferring the country's highest peacetime gallantry award -- the Ashok Chakra -- to Major Dinesh Raghu Raman of Jat Regiment/34 Rashtriya Rifles, Captain Harshan of 2 Parachute Regiment, the twice decorated Naib Subedar Chunnilal of 8 Jammu&Kashmir Light Infantry and Col Vasantha Venugopal of 9 Maratha Light Infantry.

It was a poignant moment as the kin of the brave soldiers -- Colonel Vasanth's widow Subhashini, Major Raman's father Honorary Capt S Krishnamurthy, Captain Harshan's father K Radhakrishnan Nair, and Subedar Chunnilal's widow Chintha Devi-- received the awards.

Led by Delhi Area's General Officer Commanding Maj Gen K J S Oberoi, the parade began with over a dozen serving and retired recipients of the Param Vir Chakra and other military awards for bravery passing by the ceremonial dais where the President took the salute.

The bravehearts were followed by the army contingent, which comprised mounted column of 61 Cavalry -- the only operational horse-mounted military formation in the world, ten mechanised columns of advanced lethal weapon systems including the T-90 'Bhishma' tanks, Bridge Laying Tanks (BLT-72), the indigenously 'upgunned' 155 mm Soltam howitzers, the Smerch Multiple Launch Rocket System, the Brahmos cruise missile (army variant), Tungushka Air Defence Gun System, Sarvatra Bridge, Mobile Network Connect Centre, the BMP-II K Infantry Combat Vehicle and Carrier Mortar tracked vehicle.

Eight marching contingents from Punjab Regiment, the Grenadiers, the Rajputana Rifles, Sikh Light Infantry, Assam Regiment, the Mahar Regiment, 8 Gorkha Rifles and Territorial Army (126&155 Infantry Battalions), followed as the Dhruv advanced light helicopters of Army Aviation flew past.

The DRDO representation included the Brahmos, Experimental Tanks, NBC Recce Vehicle, Anti Submarine Warfare Tableaus, Dhanush Missile and Agni-III Missile.

Next came a contingent of ex-Servicemen contingent, followed by the Navy column comprising 144 men, led by Lt Commander Ravi Kant Pandey, to the tune of 'Jai Bharati' and the IAF contingent of 148 men, led by Sq Ldr Ashok Sharma, marching to the stirring 'Tiger Hill.' MORE UNI VD MIR ND135

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