New Delhi: India is celebrating its 68th Republic Day on Thursday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the chief guest at the annual parade. President Pranab Mukherjee began the ceremony by hoisting the Indian flag. The parade starts from Rajpath and ends at Red Fort in Delhi. The main highlight of this year’s Republic Day parade is a 149-member United Arab Emirates (UAE) Presidential Guard.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted citizens on 68th Republic Day. “Republic Day greetings to everyone,” Modi said in a tweet. Here are the major highlights:
■ President Pranab Mukherjee presented the Ashok Chakra to late Havildar Hangpan Dada’s wife Chasen Lowang. Dada showed exemplary bravery while fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir on 27 May 2016 and sacrificed his life in the line of duty.
■ Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid the nation’s homage to the martyrs by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti.
■ A marching contingent of the UAE military is the second foreign military to ever participate in the Republic Day parade. Last year, a French Army contingent joined the parade becoming the first-ever foreign military to do so.
■ Four Mi-17 V5 helicopters in inverted ‘Y’ formation showered flower petals on the Rajpath.
■ For the first time in the history of Republic Day celebrations, the “black cat” commandos of the elite counter-terror force National Security Guard (NSG) march down Rajpath in full armed gear. The other marching contingents of the Army include horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Bihar Regiment, the Mechanised Infantry Regiment and the Madras Engineering Group, the 39 Gorkha Training Centre, 58 Gorkha Training Centre and 103 Sikh Light Infantry Battalion from the territorial army.
■ India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas makes a debut at the Republic Day parade along with long-range howitzer Dhanush. Three Tejas aircrafts went past above the Rajpath in Vic formation at 780kmph.
■ This year, tableaux from 17 states and six ministries of the Central government will be presented at the Rajpath. “The Art and Lifestyle of Kutch” is the central theme of Gujarat’s tableau.
■ The Central Public Works Department tableau is themed Clean India, Green India.
■ Haryana’s tableau is dedicated to the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign.