New Delhi, Jan 26 : India Saturday showcased its military might and rich cultural diversity in a seamless blend of the ancient and the modern at its annual Republic Day parade with Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk as the chief guest.

Till not very long ago, much of the military hardware on display was largely of foreign origin but the gap has been slowly narrowing. This time around it was almost totally indigenous, barring stray exceptions.

To that extent, the parade was a reaffirmation of India's growing capabilities as it prepares to play a greater role on the world stage.

The 64th Republic Day celebrations began on a clear and sunny morning with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paying homage to the unknown soldier at the India Gate war memorial in the heart of the capital.

The President's Bodyguard, resplendent in their red tunics, white breeches and black boots, red and white pennants fluttering from their lances held high, presented the National Salute.

Then followed the National Anthem was played and a 21-gun salute.

That was the signal for the parade to roll down Rajpath, the grand boulevard that stretches three kilometers from Vijay Chowk at the foot of the Raisina Hill that houses the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Commanded by Lt. Gen. Subroto Mitra, general officer commanding, Delhi Area, the parade was spearheaded by 61 Cavalry, one of the few surviving horse-mounted regiments in the world.

A mix of indigenous military hardware, marching contingents and massed bands from the armed forces, paramilitary forces and National Cadet Corps was thereafter on view.

Tableaux from 19 states and government departments, a cultural potpourri by schoolchildren and a motorcycle display by 135 riders of the Army Service Corps thrilled the large audience.

A flypast by the Indian Air Force provided the grand finale, with the piece de resistance being a lone Sukhoi Su-30MKI streaking into the wild blue yonder in a Vertical Charlie manoeuvre.


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