India celebrates 70th R-Day in presence of SA President

India celebrates 70th R-Day in presence of SA President

Many senior leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Deve Gowda, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad were among those present at the event. (Twitter/@BJP4India)

India on Saturday displayed its military powers and provided a glimpse into its rich cultural heritage, focusing particularly on the Father of the Nation in the run-up to the celebrations to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Some of the Indian Army’s latest acquisitions like M777 ultra-lightweight howitzers that can be deployed in the mountains and K-9 Vajra-T howitzers, manufactured in India by Larsen and Toubro, paraded on the central boulevard.

With a range of 38 km, K-9 Vajra-T is the first 52 calibre gun system to be inducted in the Indian Artillery and the first tracked self-propelled gun to be inducted after almost three decades. The M777, on the other hand, has a range of 30 km and was purchased from the USA in a government to a government contract.

Another new weapon was five upgraded MiG-29 Air Superiority Fighters that flow in ‘Arrowhead’ formation. They came just after five Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft. Indian Air Force used 33 aircraft including 18 fighters for the fly past.

South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was the Chief Guest of the national parade that was themed on Mahatma Gandhi as each one of the tableaus from the state governments and central departments chose a slice from the life and works of the Mahatma to be depicted on the display units that rolled down the Rajpath.

The South African President was accompanied by his wife Tshepo Motsepe and a high-level delegation, including nine ministers, senior officials and a 50-member business contingent, who are on a two-day visit. This is Ramaphosa's first India tour as the head of the state.

The 70th Republic Day parade has several firsts to its credit. From the IAF flying one of its AN-32 aircraft with biofuel to the government’s recognition of the INA veterans as four soldiers, who were part of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj. For the first time, INA veterans were a part of the parade.

Also for the first time, Assam Rifles fielded an all women marching contingent led by Maj Khusboo Kanwar. Other examples of women power were the contingents of the Navy, Army Services Corps and a unit of Corps of Signals that were led by women officers Lt Cdr Ambika Sudhakar, Lt Bhavana Kasturi and Captain Sikha Surabhi respectively.

Twenty-two tableau, 16 from different states and union territories and six from central government departments displayed the life, times and ideas of Mahatma Gandhi before the crowd who braved early morning chills to assemble in the India Gate.

The maximum cheer, however, was kept for the Corps of Signals motorcycle team, which performed daredevil stunts and the IAF pilots flying high piercing the blue sky.