The amount of time—around two hours—spent by Obama on an outdoor viewing platform was unusual given the US Secret Service security concerns
Watched by US President Barack Obama, India Monday displayed its military might and cultural diversity during the 66th R-Day parade in the capital which was wrapped in an unprecedented security blanket.
Obama was the first ever US President to attend the parade as Chief Guest on the second day of his three-day visit, as light rains and overcast skies failed to dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of spectators who gathered along the Rajpath to watch the majestic pomp-filled spectacle.
Dressed in a dark suit, Obama was seated next to Modi, donning a multicoloured ‘bandhej safa'(Rajasthani turban), as the two leaders chatted and soaked up the splendour that unfolded on the rain-soaked parade route. Obama was also seen holding his umbrella for a while.
A smiling US President was seen nodding in appreciation on several occasions and gave a thumbs up to the BSF daredevils—famed for their formation of a human pyramid on moving bikes—during their display of daring motorcycle stunts that was a showstopper.
Smartly attired all-female units from the Army, Navy and Air Force marched for the first time in this year’s parade, as the country’s military hardware with carnival-style floats featuring achievements in diverse fields as well as tribal dancers and traditional music rolled past in a show of ‘unity in diversity’.
In a departure from tradition for the Chief Guest at the R-Day parade, Obama arrived in his own highly-secured bomb-proof vehicle, ‘The Beast,’ at Rajpath. The crowd erupted in cheers as the Obamas emerged from the limousine.
Obama and Michelle sat in a special glass enclosure along with President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President M Hamid Ansari and his wife, and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar among other dignitaries. Michelle also smiled broadly at dance performance by young children.
A highlight of this year’s parade was the display for the first time of the recently acquired long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine P-8I aircraft and the long-range advanced MiG-29K fighter plane.
Prime Minister Modi’s "Make in India" campaign to boost the country’s manufacturing industry and create much-needed jobs was featured in one of the tableaux.
The amount of time—around two hours—spent by Obama on an outdoor viewing platform was unusual given the US Secret Service security concerns.
A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the capital turning the city into virtually an impregnable fortress. Snipers of National Security Guard were deployed at all high-rises along the parade route.
The arrangements were made to ensure an incident-free R-day celebrations and foolproof security to the American President, who arrived here yesterday.
As part of the seven-layered security, around 45,000 security personnel were deployed across the city while the commandos of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Delhi Police kept a hawk-eye vigil at important locations.
The unfurling of the tricolour by the President and playing of the national anthem were followed by a customary 21-gun salute.
The parade began shortly after Mukherjee and Obama arrived at the saluting base separately at the ceremonial boulevard–Rajpath. Traditionally, the President accompanies the Chief Guest in his limousine.
Before the commencement of the parade, Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh and Major Mukund Varadarajan were posthumously conferred the highest peacetime gallantry award Ashok Chakra by the President.
Among the main attractions of the ceremonial parade were 25 colourful tableaux representing India’s cultural and linguistic diversity as also signifying the vision of the future India as envisaged by the current government.
So, a massive mechanised lion made out of gear-tooth wheels, symbolic of the government’s ‘Make in India’ policy or a mock-up of a high-speed bullet train drew cheers from the crowd as they rolled down the majestic avenue.
Besides, the tableaux for ‘Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana’ helmed by the Department of Financial Services, the Ministry of Women and Child Development-led exhibit featuring live performances by women themed on ‘Beti Bachaho, Beti Padhao’ campaign also won many hearts.
And, with "Women’s Empowerment" being the theme of this year’s R-Day parade, another attraction at the annual extravaganza was the contingents of all-women officers of the three Services marching for the first time on the Rajpath.
While 16 of the tableaux belonging to the states and the union territories represented the cultural and architectural wealth of the country, the remaining nine were from various central ministries and departments themed on ‘Ma Ganga’ to ‘Yoga’ among others.
Another military attraction was the display of Army version of indigenously developed surface-to-air Akash medium range missile and Weapon Locating Radar, both by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Indian Army’s laser-guided missile capable T-90 Bheeshma tank, infantry combat vehicle BMP-II (Sarath) followed by T-72 with Trawl too proved to be a major draw in the mechanised columns.
These 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) followed next.
An Indian Air Force tableau with the theme "50 years of 1965 War" was next in line at the majestic Rajpath, dazzling VIPs, VVIPs and spectators alike.
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.
Navy’s march to self-reliance and indigenisation was showcased by the models of indigenously constructed destroyer INS Kolkata launching a BrahMos missile with the Advanced Light Helicopter "Dhruv" in the background.
The second Naval tableau, titled "Bharatiya Nau Sena aur Nari Shakti", represented the four Indian Navy women officers who braved vagaries of the seas and participated in an ocean voyage from Goa to Rio-de-Janeiro in Brazil on board Indian Naval Sailing Vessel ‘Mhadei’.
For Jammu and Kashmir, the dazzling beauty of the region was displayed through Rouff dance of Kashmir, flower dance of Ladakh and Kud dance of Jammu regions.
MODI AND OBAMA’S BROMANCE CONTINUES
The bromance between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama continued as they chatted and enjoyed light moments during the 66th R-Day parade.
Modi received Obama at about 9.56 AM with a warm handshake and also held him by his right arm.
There was a tremendous cheer from the crowd as the two leaders smiled and waved to them.
During the parade, Modi and Obama were seen engrossed in conversation. The US President could often be seen leaning towards his right to speak to Modi.
The two leaders were often seen smiling, especially when the vibrant tableaux and performances by school children came up.
Before exiting, the two leaders were seen waving at the ecstatic crowd from the bullet-proof glass enclosure, and were later joined in by First Lady of the US Michelle Obama.
Yesterday too, the bonhomie between the two leaders was evident from the hug that Modi gave to Obama when he arrived here or when they went for a brief walk at the manicured lawns of the Hyderabad House.
Modi had also thrice addressed the US president by his first name ‘Barack’ to reiterate the growing intimacy between the two leaders. Obama too addressed him as Modi.
Delhi: Highlights on R-Day
1. First-ever march by an all-women contingent drawn from the army, navy and air force.
2. A US President was the Chief Guest at R-day parade
3. President Pranab Mukherjee and Barrack Obama arrived in different motorcades, a departure from the standard practice of arriving together.
4. CRPF’s anti-naxal special forces Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) marched on the Rajpath.
5. Obama broke Secret Service’s security protocol by remaining in the open for more than two hours when he graced the R-day celebrations
6. Obama was seen chewing gum at the parade and then removing it while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was talking to him.