Cultural heritage, military might on display at Republic Day parade
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A kaleidoscopic view of the country's rich cultural heritage and military prowess were on display at the 64th Republic Day parade today on the 8-km stretch from Rajpath to Red Fort.
An eager audience on both sides of the imposing Rajpath, the country's ceremonial boulevard facing the seat of power Raisina Hills, braved the winter chill and cheered loudly as the parade went past them portraying the rich and diverse culture of the country.
The icing on the cake was the 5,500-5,800 km ballistic Agni-V missile mounted on a road mobile launcher which was paraded by the Defence Research & Development Organisation as the crowd lapped it up with loud cheer.
General Officer Commanding (Delhi) Lt General Subroto Mitra led the synchronised military and police contingents as they marched to the cheerful tunes of bands through the 2-km Rajpath where President Pranab Mukherjee, also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, took the salute for the first time after assuming office in July last year.
The impressive march-past was watched by Chief Guest, Bhutan king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and top political and military brass.
Police and other para-military forces turned Delhi into a a virtual fortress for the Republic Day celebrations as helicopters scanned from air, snipers kept a hawk-eye vigil from rooftops and armed personnel at every nook and corner provided a ground-to-air security apparatus.
Minutes before the parade began, Singh, Antony and chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force laid wreaths at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti', an eternal flame in the memory of those who laid down their lives while defending the nation.
After the customary 21-gun salute and unfurling of the national tricolour by President Mukherjee, the spectacle began with four army helicopters flying above Rajpath carrying the national flag and the three flags of the Army, Navy and Air Force.