Motorbike stunt riders and herds of camels wowed the crowds gathered in New Delhi on Thursday (26) to celebrate Republic Day, an annual showcase of India’s military hardware and cultural diversity.
After the US and French presidents attended the last two events, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was this year’s chief guest as everyone from bagpipe-playing troops to schoolchildren paraded along the landmark Rajpath boulevard.
The day marks the adoption of the country’s constitution on January 26, 1950, following independence from Britain in 1947.
The nearly 100-minute parade displayed India’s latest weaponry, including missiles and indigenously-manufactured radar systems, along with elaborate floats representing the country’s different states and union territories.
A contingent of border guards rode into town on camels, wearing colourful caparisons fitted with round mirror pieces, and were greeted with loud cheers from spectators.
The arrival of the camels followed a show by stuntmen from military units, some of whom balanced themselves precariously on ladders on the back of moving motorbikes.
A military contingent from the UAE led the march down Janpath and the parade concluded with a fly-past by Indian fighter jets.
Prime minister Narendra Modi wore a pink turban and was seen chatting with guests inside a bullet-proof enclosure.
Nahyan is the second Arab leader to attend the function after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in 2006, as India eyes financial investments and energy security from the region.
More than 50,000 security personnel were deployed in the capital to prevent any possible attack.
Suspected separatist militants triggered at least eight bombs in the remote northeastern Assam and Manipur states, but without causing any major damage or casualties.
In his televised Republic Day speech on Wednesday night (25), president Pranab Mukherjee said India’s strength lay in its religious and cultural diversity.
Critics say India is witnessing an increasingly strident brand of Hindu nationalism since Modi came to power in 2014.
“More than the unison of ideas, a healthy democracy calls for conformity to the values of tolerance, patience and respect for others,” said Mukherjee, a member of the main opposition Congress party and whose position is largely ceremonial.
“Our tradition has always celebrated the argumentative Indian not the intolerant Indian.”