The contingent comprised of the UAE Presidential Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and 35 musicians.
A 149-member contingent of the UAE’s armed forces led the way as India celebrated its 68th Republic Day with a spectacular display of military strength, culture and technological achievements.
Republic Day – which is celebrated on January 26 every year – marks the date in which India’s constitution was adopted in 1950.
Just prior to the start of the parade, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a floral wreath and observed two minutes of solemn silence at the Amar Jawan Jyoti near the India Gate, which commemorates India’s unknown fallen soldiers.
Soon after, Modi joined Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Chief Guest His Highness bin Zayed Al Nayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces on the Rajpath, the boulevard which runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan – the presidential palace – past the India Gate and onwards to Delhi’s National Stadium.
Before joining Modi, Mukherjee and Sheikh Mohamed descended the steps of the palace side by side to receive a salute from the President’s Bodyguard. Many Indian TV stations also took several minutes to introduce Sheikh Mohamed and explain his leadership style and past achievements.
The parade itself is presents a colourful display of India’s military and cultural variety, with dozens of mounted and marching contingents, military bans, cultural tableaux and over 1,500 school children from around the country participating.
To honour Sheikh Mohamed as Chief Guest, this year’s parade included an 179-strong contingent of the UAE Armed Forces, which lead the march behind the parade commander, his second-in-command and this year’s batch of winners of the Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra awards.
The UAE’s presence in the parade is the first time an Arab contingent has participated in the Republic Day events. Only one other foreign contingent – the 35th regiment of France’s seventh Armoured Brigade – has marched along the Rajpath for Republic Day, in 2016.
The parade also gave spectators a look at some of India’s most modern military hardware, ranging from third-generation T-90 tanks to recently introduced ‘Dhanush’ artillery systems and BrahMos missiles.
Particular crowd favourites at this year’s parade were the colourful camel contingent and camel-mounted band of the Border Security Force (BSF), which brought about 100 camels to Delhi from the arid borderlands of Rajasthan to take part, as well as the elite “Black Cat” commandos of the National Security Group (NSG).
Another group of well-received parade participants were the much-awaited acrobatic motorcycle riders of the Shwet Ashva team, which delighted the crowd with their impressive feats of balance, such as riding a motorcycle while on a ladder and having multiple people on a bike at once, hanging on each other to achieve equilibrium.
On the cultural side, the participating tableaux showcased the vast differences of Indian regional cultures, ranging from Arunachal Pradesh’s ‘Yak Dance’ to the snowy winter sports of Jammu and Kashmir, the musical heritage of Goa and the Kamakhya shrine of Guwahati, in Assam.
The parade also saw a number of aircraft of the Indian Air Force participate in flyovers, including Mi-35 attack helicopters and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Notably, the parade saw the debut of the indigenously built Tejas multi-role light fighter aircraft, marking only the second time in two decades that Indian built fighters conduct Republic Day fly-overs.
About half an hour prior to the end of the parade, Sheikh Mohamed took to Twitter to convey the greetings of His Highness President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and UAE’s people to Indians and their government.
“I am very delighted and honored to share Republic Day celebrations with the Indian people,” he said.
India’s Republic Day celebrations will officially end tomorrow with the ‘Beating Retreat’ on Friday evening, which is conducted by bands of the Indian army, air force, and navy in the presence of the President.