India is celebrating its 74th Republic Day on a revamped ceremonial boulevard in the capital, with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as a guest of honour.
Tens of thousands of people endured a winter chill and mist on Thursday as they gathered to watch a parade in New Delhi, showcasing the country’s defence capability and cultural heritage.
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The public holiday marks the anniversary of India officially adopting its constitution and becoming a sovereign republic in 1950, three years after it gained independence from British rule.
Several thousand people, braving the cold on a foggy morning in New Delhi, watched the parade from their seats around Kartavya Path – or path of duty – while millions more watched on television.
Accompanied by marching bands, troops from the country’s military, border and police forces paced in perfect synchronisation towards the dais where India’s President Droupadi Murmu took the salute.
Her Egyptian counterpart el-Sisi, in a blue suit and matching tie, looked on as he was flanked by Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wore a saffron-and-yellow-coloured turban.
The country’s rich and diverse heritage was showcased in vibrant tableaux from different states and ministries, highlighting the central theme of “nari shakti” or women power.
The army’s tableaux comprised only locally-made weapons, reflecting India’s drive to become more self-reliant in the defence sector.
In recent years, tableaus by states governed by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have mostly included Hindu supremacist symbols and narratives.
One such tableau by the northern Uttar Pradesh state – India’s most populous with 200 million residents – had a religious festival in the temple town of Ayodhya as its theme. It was in this town that a Mughal-era mosque was demolished by a Hindu mob in 1992, triggering deadly nationwide riots.
#RepublicDay | Haryana's tableau reflects design based on Bhagavad Gita. In its entirety, the tableau shows Lord Krishna serving as the charioteer of Arjun and giving him knowledge of Gita. The patterns on the sides of the trailer show various scenes from the battle of Mahabharat pic.twitter.com/5t3B5nJxuM
— ANI (@ANI) January 26, 2023
The event climaxed with a flypast by 45 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, with French-made Rafales, Russian-made Su-30s and the Indian-made Tejas fighter jets putting on an impressive aeronautical display.
But foggy weather spoilt the spectacle, as people struggled to catch a glimpse of the aircraft roaring overhead.
Earlier in the day, Modi, accompanied by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the service chiefs, paid homage to martyred soldiers at the National War Memorial in the capital.
“The day is special this year because we are celebrating it during the Amrit Mahotsav of independence,” Modi tweeted in Hindi, referring to how his government has branded the 75th anniversary of India’s freedom.
First Egyptian leader to attend
El-Sisi, who is on a three-day visit to India, became the first Egyptian president to be invited for the Republic Day celebrations.
On Wednesday, the Egyptian leader congratulated the Indians and said it was a “great privilege” to be the guest of honour on “such a glorious national day”.
“The relations between Egypt and India have been characterised by balance and stability. We have only seen constructive development. We have been all along evolving very positively,” he said.
This year, India and Egypt, who are longtime trade partners, are seeking closer ties, mainly on security.
Indian media reports said Thursday’s parade also included a march by a 144-member contingent of the Egyptian Armed Forces.
Reports also said the special forces of the two nations will later hold joint military exercises in the cities of Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur in the desert state of Rajasthan in western India.
Egypt is dependent on food imports from Russia and Ukraine which have become uncertain since the war started nearly a year ago.
Last year, Cairo ordered large imports of wheat from India to rein in its food prices.