NEW DELHI// India, on Thursday, showcased its military might and rich cultural heritage at the 68th Republic Day parade, in presence of its chief guest, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The parade, held at the ceremonial boulevard, Rajpath, included a 149-member marching contingent from the UAE.
Sheikh Mohammed arrived with India’s president, Pranab Mukherjee, from the presidential palace in a cavalcade. They were escorted by a cavalry unit of the Indian army.
In celebrating the long-standing friendship and growing strategic cooperation between India and the UAE, it marked for the first time in more than 50 years that the Indian government invited a leader to be the chief guest at its Republic Day function, who is not a head of state or head of government.
The marching of the military contingent from the UAE at the parade was yet another first.
Sheikh Mohammed, after late Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2006, is the most prominent Arab leader in recent years to be invited as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations.
While Mr Mukherjee took the salute at the parade, prime minister Narendra Modi sat with Sheikh Mohammed throughout the ceremony.
The two leaders were seen sharing several light moments. The parade was also witnessed by India’s vice president, Hamid Ansari, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress party chief, Sonia Gandhi, the country’s top political and military brass, senior officials from India and the UAE, in addition to the diplomatic community. As well, there were cheering crowds on the sidelines braving chilly conditions and a drizzle to boost the morale of marching troops.
A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the capital, turning the city into a virtually impregnable fortress.
National Security Guard snipers were deployed at all high-rises along the parade route. Around 60,000 police and military personnel were deployed across the city to offset any security breaches.
At the parade, tableaux from India’s states and federally administered territories and various ministries and departments showcased the varied historical, art and cultural heritage of the country. The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular fly past by the Indian Air Force. The elite Black Cat commandos and the made-in-India Tejas combat aircraft made their Republic Day debut at Thursday’s parade.
Sheikh Mohammed has one more official engagement in India left. He will be attend president Mukherjee’s At Home reception at the presidential palace on Thursday afternoon. Sheikh Mohammed is scheduled to fly back to the UAE on Thursday evening at the end of his three-day state visit to the country.
On Wednesday, India signed several MoUs and a couple of agreements with the UAE that included a deal between state-owned Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) on oil storage and management.
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