New Delhi, Jan 26: Multi-hued images of India's rich cultural diversity and military might as well as achievements in diverse fields unfolded today at the 66th Republic Day parade which had a US President--Barack Obama--as the Chief Guest for the first time.
As the nearly two-hour-long parade, showcasing the country's 'unity in diversity' marched down the Rajpath in drizzle and overcast skies, thousands of spectators gathered along the route and cheered in joy.
The national capital was wrapped in unprecedented security blanket as thousands of security personnel kept a hawk's vigil in and around the Rajpath area. Obama was seated next to Modi, donning a multicoloured 'bandhej safa'(turban), as the two leaders chatted and enjoyed the annual spectacle.
A smiling US President was seen nodding in appreciation on several occasions. In a departure from tradition for the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade, Obama arrived in his own highly-secured bomb-proof vehicle, 'The Beast,' at Rajpath.
A highlight of this year's parade was the display for the first time of the recently acquired long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine P-8I aircraft and the long-range advanced MiG-29K fighter plane.
The synchronised military and police contingents led by General Officer Commanding (Delhi), Lt General Subroto Mitra marched proudly to the lilting tunes of bands through Rajpath where President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Pranab Mukherjee took the salute from a specially erected dais.
Alongside Obama, the first US President to attend the celebrations, the ceremonial parade was watched by his wife Michelle, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the country's top political and military brass, besides the diplomatic community.
Highlight of the parade was long-range advanced MiG-29K fighter plane
Minutes before the parade began, the Prime Minister, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar 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 down their lives defending the frontiers of the nation.
A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital turning the city into virtually an impregnable fortress. Snipers of National Security Guard were deployed at all high-rises along the parade route. The arrangements were made to ensure an incident-free Republic Day celebrations and foolproof security to the American President, who arrived here yesterday.
As part of the seven-layered security, around 45,000 security personnel were deployed across the city while the commandos of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Delhi Police kept a hawk-eye vigil at important locations. The unfurling of the tricolour by the President and playing of the national anthem were followed by a customary 21-gun salute.