NEW DELHI: India today celebrated its 69th Republic Day with a grand display of the country’s military might and rich cultural diversity in the presence of leaders from all the ASEAN nations, in a historic first and unprecedented strategic outreach to the powerful bloc.
This is for the first time that leaders from 10 countries attended the annual celebrations as chief guests, and the overwhelming presence of the ASEAN leadership is seen as a reflection of India’s growing stature as a major power in the region where China has been expanding its footprint.
Thousands of people on both sides of the Rajpath, India’s ceremonial boulevard facing the seat of power on the Raisina Hill, braved the winter chill and cheered loudly as the marching contingents and tableaux went past them.
Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Singaporean Premier Lee Hsien Loong and Brunei’s Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah were among the ASEAN leaders who attended the event.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Laos Thongloun Sisoulith and Cambodian Premier Hun Sen also watched the grand parade.
In a series of tweets, Modi talked about India’s partnership with ASEAN and yesterday’s India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit. “Their presence with us is an unprecedented gesture of goodwill from ASEAN nations.”
Before the beginning of the ceremony marking the date when India’s Constitution came into force way back in 1950, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a saffron, red and green safa (headgear), paid homage to the martyrs by laying a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate.
The parade was commanded by Lt General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area.
The supreme commander of the Indian armed forces President Ram Nath Kovind took the salute at the parade. India’s highest peacetime military decoration Ashok Chakra was posthumously given to IAF Garud commando Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala, who laid down his life after gunning down two terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
The award was received by Corporal Nirala’s wife Sushmanand and his mother Malti Devi.
A march-past by the Army personnel carrying the ASEAN flag also featured during the parade.
The Army personnel also carried the flags of the 10 ASEAN nations in the parade. Twenty three tableaux, including those representing various states, ministries, the All India Radio (AIR) among others, rolled down the Rajpath.