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Republic Day Parade showcases New India amid coronavirus restrictions

Republic Day Parade 2021 showcases New India amid coronavirus restrictions (IANS)

The border standoff with China, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and an effort to showcase the Modi administration's drive toward a "New India" were showcased at the Republic Day parade on Tuesday.

The parade was pared down to safeguard against the spread of the deadly disease that has snuffed out 2.1 million lives worldwide but there were some new attractions all the same.

What’s new

The newly bought French-made Rafale fighter jets of the IAF starred at the parade for the first time in a formidable display of air power. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has thus far inducted 11 of the 36 Rafale jets ordered from France.

Amid a military standoff with China in Ladakh and elsewhere, the Indian edge over China in the air domain was one of the highlights of the parade. The IAF's Sukhoi-30s and MiG-29s were among the 42 aircraft that took part in the Republic Day flypast.

The IAF’s C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, C-130J Super Hercules special operations plane, Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission choppers also took part in the flypast.

Military equipment displayed at the parade included the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and T-90 tanks which have also been deployed in strength in Ladakh.

The parade witnessed the first participation by a woman fighter pilot. Flight lieutenant Bhawana Kanth, one of India’s first women fighter pilots, was part of the IAF’s tableau that showed models of the light combat aircraft (LCA), light combat helicopter (LCH) and the Sukhoi-30 fighters which are being produced in India.

 A contingent of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, comprising 122 soldiers also participated in the parade. France (2016) and the UAE (2017) are the first two foreign countries to have participated in the Republic Day parade in the past.

The Uttar Pradesh’s tableau featured a replica of the Ram Temple, which is currently under construction in the temple town of Ayodhya. The Supreme Court had in November 2019 ended the decades-long dispute, to open the way for constructing the temple.

The first among the cultural tableaux from the states and Union Territories was presented by the Union Territory of Ladakh, formed after the Modi administration abrogated Article 370 and Article 35 A on August 5, 2019.

Showcasing the aspirational drive towards a "New India," the Department of Biotechnology depicted the process of COVID-19 Vaccine development through various stages under the theme of 'Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

The Digital India tableaux showcased India's move towards digitalisation.

What was curtailed

It was the first Republic Day parade without a chief guest in more than five decades as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to cancel his visit at the last minute due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom.

The number of spectators was reduced to 25,000 from 150,000 allowed last year. The number of media persons, too, was cut from 300 to 200.  The parade went only till the National Stadium at the C-Hexagon of India Gate instead of ending at the Red Fort as was the usual practice in earlier years. Only the tableaux went to the Red Fort.

The events that were cancelled include the veterans’ parade by ex-servicemen and women, as well as the dare-devil motorcycle stunts by troops of the army and the Central Armed Police Force personnel. Also, there was no enclosure for schoolchildren this year.