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Military muscle on display at Rajpath

NEW DELHI, Jan 26 (PTI) The country's military might, technological advancement and rich cultural heritage unfolded on the majestic Rajpath here as the nation celebrated its 50th Republic Day today.

Contingents of the Army equipped with 5.56 Insas rifles marched past as two indigenously developed missiles, Agni and Prithvi, and three missiles under development, Trishul, Akash and Nag were put on display together for the first time.

President K R Narayanan, the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, took the salute from a specially set up podium as the parade began from the foot of the Raisina Hills and wound its way through the heart of the city before culminating at the historic Red Fort grounds.

Nepal's King Birendra, the chief guest, his wife Queen Aishwarya, Vice-President Krishan Kant, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his Cabinet colleagues and commoners on both sides of Rajpath watched the two-hour show enriched by a spellbinding flypast by Air Force fighter and transport aircraft.

Before the parade started, the Prime Minister paid homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, memorial to the soldiers who laid down their lives in defence of the country.

The parade was led by Major General Surinder Kumar Awasthy, General Officer Commanding (Delhi area), followed by Brigadier Rajeshwar Singh, Deputy General Officer Commanding (Delhi area) who was in charge of the march past from India Gate to Chandni Chowk.

The winners of the highest gallantry awards, including Ashok Chakra, Param Vir Chakra and Victoria Cross, followed the Parade Commander in jeeps.

Four MI-17 helicopters in an inverted 'wine glass' formation flew past the saluting dais preceding the Parade Commander. The lead aircraft carrying the National Flag and the other three bearing the services flags showered petals on the gathering. The flypast was led by Wing Commander A K Sinha.

The mounted contingent, 61st Cavalry, the only regiment of its kind in the world today, went past the saluting base before the mechanised columns drove by.

The rumblings of indigenously designed 'main battle tank' (MBT) Arjun of 43 Armoured Regiment and T-72 Ajay tanks of 51 Armoured Regiment reverberated as the mechanised columns marched past.

The Artillery contingents, displaying 155 mm Bofors gun, used in Siachen and Rajasthan sectors, and the latest acquisition of the Indian Army — Tunguska air defence weapon system rolled by before the reporter.

The Armoured Engineer Regiment, carrying mine-sweeping equipment which ensures safe passage for advancing armoured vehicles ready to strike at enemies, appeared on Rajpath.

A round of applause greeted the regiment's AM-50 bridging vehicle contingent commanded by Lt Suman Sharma, first lady officer of the regiment. The vehicle provides a makeshift bridge for tanks to cross 52-metre marshy land and waterbodies.

'Airawat', a Corps of Signals vehicle carrying radio trunk communication system, similar to the cellular telephone, providing communication to the field force while on the move, approached the saluting base.

On the heels came No 2 Army Headquarters Signal Regiment's T-2 satellite terminal housing modern satellite equipment for long distance communication with Captain Sunita Asthana in the lead.

After the rolls and rumble of machines came the marching contingents led by the Madras regiment, one of the oldest regiments which has seen action in World War II and three wars since 1962.

Each with a long history of valour and supreme sacrifices the Maratha Light Infantry, Rajputana Rifles, Rajput Regiment, Sikh Light Infantry, Garhwal Rifles, Gorkha Rrifles, Kumaon Regiment, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and the Assam Regiment marched in unison to martial tunes played by regimental bands.

The Navy band, which has performed at the bicentennial celebrations of the Statue of Liberty in the USA and Coronation of the Queen in the United Kingdom, led the Naval contingents at Rajpath.

Three Camov helicopters (christened Eagle) flew in a 'Vic' formation over the Navy entourage as replicas of the famous aircraft carrier 'Vikrant', the grand old lady of the Navy, and submarine 'Sindhu Rakshak', the latest induction into the frontline squadron, passed by.

The columns of Air Force, the youngest of the three services, followed the Naval contingents with smartly-dressed airmen marching down the road before the band playing the tune 'Vijay Bharat' took over.

The pilotless target aircraft 'Lakshya', OSA-AK-CV air-defence missile system and OSA-AK-M air guided weapon system were on display followed by MI-35 assault helicopter and fighter bomber MIG-27M aircraft.

The single seater high wing military aircraft 'Jaguar', with a fully computerised navigation and weapon delivery system was also displayed in the parade.

An array of missiles mounted on vehicles rolled by after the 'Jaguar' aircraft with 'Prithvi', the latest technological marvel, leading the show.

Three missiles at present under various stages of technical trial — surface-to-air missiles 'Trishul' and 'Akash' and anti-tank guided missile 'Nag' - were on the show for the first time.

'Agni', the intermediate range ballistic missile, was also put on show for the first time at the parade where 'Prithvi' has been a regular feature in recent years.

The rhythmic 'Queen of Battle', composed for the massed pipes and drums band of Artillery Centre, Madras Engineering Groups, Garhwal Rifles and some other regiments, mesmerised the audience.

The paramilitary contingents were led by Border Security Force (BSF), the largest para-military force in the world. Its 'Ship of the Desert' contingent with troops mounted on camels has been instrumental in fighting smugglers and militants in border areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Contingents of Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, Central Reserve Police Force, Rapid Action Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police and National Cadet Corps marched past the saluting base before the combined Army band playing the popular composition 'Vir Bharat'. back

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