Military might and cultural diversity mark R-Day parade (Lead)

January 26th, 2009 - 1:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilNew Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) India’s military might blended seamlessly with the richness of the country’s cultural diversity at the 60th Republic Day parade here Monday.Thousands of soldiers as well as paramilitary and police personnel marched from Vijay Chowk, near the Rashtrapati Bhavan, to the Red Fort monument about seven kilometres away in an annual event that began in 1950.

Marching along with them were hundreds of school students who presented songs and dances denoting the varied cultures of the Indian society.

President Pratibha Patil, India’s first woman president, took salute as supreme commander of the armed forces. The chief guest on the occasion was Kazakhsthan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

President Patil gave away posthumous Ashok Chakra awards, the country’s highest gallantry award in peacetime, to 10 widows and a mother of security personnel who died fighting terrorists in Mumbai, New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.

This is the first time such a large number of Ashok Chakras have been awarded on a single occasion.

The 150-minute event began with Defence Minister A.K. Antony paying homage to the Unknown Soldier at the India Gate, a World War I memorial in the heart of the capital.

Antony stood in for Prime Minister Manmohan singh, who is recuperating from heart surgery. This is the first time a prime minister has skipped a Republic Day parade.

The grand finale was the flypast by the Indian Air Force. A variety of aircraft ranging from helicopters to combat jets zoomed across the sky and literally brought the spectators to their feet.

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