NEW DELHI: India ushered in its 73rd Republic Day on Wednesday in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic with an imposing display of its military strength and rich cultural diversity during a 90-minute parade that included soldiers on horseback, elite commandos, tanks, infantry combat vehicles, missiles and artillery guns, with fighter jets roaring across the sky in the grand finale.
The parade began with President Ram Nath Kovind posthumously awarding Ashok Chakra to assistant sub inspector Babu Ram of the Jammu & Kashmir Police, India's highest peacetime gallantry honour. Babu Ram's wife, Reema Rani, and son, Manik, received the award. The police officer killed three terrorists during an operation in Srinagar on August 29, 2020.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the country in paying tribute to India's fallen braves at the National War Memorial (NWM), a monument dedicated to soldiers killed in post-Independence wars and operations.
"On Republic Day, we recall the great women and men who worked towards the making of our Constitution. We also reiterate our commitment to fulfil their dreams for our nation," the PM tweeted.
One of the highlights of the parade was the display of modern weaponry alongside vintage military equipment.
The weapons showcased included the surface-to-air Akash missile system, main battle tank Arjun, BMP-II infantry combat vehicles and Dhanush artillery guns, with the PT-76 and Centurion tanks, OT-62 Topas armoured personnel carrier, 75/24 towed gun and the Tiger Cat missile system offering a refreshing throwback to the 1960s and 1970s.
Some of the marching contingents that followed were also themed on old and new, once again seeking to demonstrate the army's evolution over the decades.
If the elite warriors of the Parachute Regiment sported the army's new battledress and marched down Rajpath with their Israeli Tavor TAR-21 assault rifles, the contingent of the Rajput Regiment was barely recognisable in its 1940s uniform and the vintage.303 rifles.
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