Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Obama with a warm smile and handshake at Rajpath around 10am. Obama is the first US president to be the guest of honour on the occasion.
The crowd erupted in cheers as Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, emerged from his armored limousine and took his place on the rain-soaked parade route in the capital of New Delhi. The parade was the centerpiece of Obama’s three-day visit to India, which is aimed at strengthening a relationship between the world’s largest democracies that has at times been fraught with tension and suspicion.
January 26 marks the day in 1950 when India adopted its Constitution, after gaining Independence from Britain in 1947. Every year, India hosts the leader of a foreign country as chief guest for the parade.
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1) Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended greetings to the nation early in the morning. “Greetings to everyone on Republic Day,” he tweeted.
2) The R-Day celebrations began with Modi paying tributes at the India Gate war memorial. After the PM laid a wreath at the eternal flame to the unknown soldier, the buglers sounded the Last Post, and two minutes of silence was observed.
3) Modi then signed the Visitor’s Book and headed back to the saluting base on Rajpath. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar, minister of state for defence Rao Inderjit Singh, and the three services chiefs were also present at India Gate.
4) Despite the light showers, enthusiastic people reached Rajpath to witness the parade.
5) President Pranab Mukherjee presented the Ashok Chakra award to the families of Major Mukund Varadarajan and Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh. Mukherjee then unfurled the national flag. The national anthem was played and the event began.
6) Highlights of the colourful show
# Tableaux from 16 states and nine central ministries — altogether five more than last year — showcased the varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the country. The theme of most of the tableaux this year were with imprints of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet projects such as ‘Jan Dhan Yojna’, ‘Maa Ganga’, ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, bullet train and the ‘Make in India’ drive.
# With “Women’s Empowerment” being the theme of this year, the main attraction of the annual extravaganza was marching contingents of all-women officers of the three services. All-female units from the army, navy and air force marched for the first time in this year’s parade. Defence sources say the thought of having an all-women contingent came from Modi himself as he wanted the Services to focus on “Nari Shakti”.
# Another attraction was the display of the Indian Army’s version of indigenously developed surface-to-air Akash medium range missile and Weapon Locating Radar, both by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
# For the first time, India displayed its recently acquired long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine P-8I aircraft and the long-range advanced MiG-29K fighter plane.
# They were followed by ‘Pinaka’ multiple barrel launcher system. The Mobile Autonomous Launcher of BRAHMOS missile system, three dimensional tactical control radar, satellite on the move communication platform and rapidly deployable satellite terminal (RADSAT) came next.
# In keeping with the Indian Navy’s theme “Ensuring Safe Seas for a Resurgent Nation” – the naval tableau displayed a few of its frontline assets in all four dimensions of maritime warfare.
# The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by the IAF jets and aircraft. The flypast commenced with ‘Chakra’ formation, comprising three Mi-35 helicopters in ‘Vic’ formation, followed by the ‘Hercules’ formation comprising three C-130J super Hercules aircraft.
7) Security is particularly tight this year, with roads sealed off and the Metro shut down for the duration of the parade. Snipers were posted on rooftops along the parade route, while helicopters and surveillance drones kept a watch from above. Some 400km around the venue has been declared a no-fly zone and 15,000 new CCTV cameras have been installed. Spectators were not allowed to take in mobile phones, cameras, books, or even remote-control car keys.