60th Republic Day celebrations begin

January 26th, 2009 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilNew Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) India’s 60th Republic Day celebrations began here Monday morning with Defence Minister A.K. Antony paying homage to the unknown soldier at the India Gate war memorial.Antony was standing in for Prime Minister Manmohan singh, who is recuperating from heart surgery. This is the first time that a prime minister has been forced to skip a Republic Day parade.

Antony then drove to the saluting base at Rajpath to welcome President Pratibha Patil and visiting Kazakhsthan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the chief guest on the occasion.

Patil thereafter conferred 11 posthumous Ashok Chakras, the nation’s highest gallantry award in peacetime, on security personnel who died fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, Mumbai and New Delhi.

The parade began with a contingent of the 61st Cavalry, about the only such horse-mounted regiment in the world. Overhead, four Mi-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force, in an inverted “Y” formation, showered rose petals on the hundreds of spectators who had been gathering since early morning to witness the annual extravaganza.

Following them were contingents of the three armed forces and the paramilitary forces.

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