The country’s 63rd Republic Day was celebrated here in gloriously sunny weather, a break from the chill the capital has been having. The sun was out since early morning bringing smiles to the faces of thousands of people who gathered on both sides of the Rajpath.
Yingluck Adds Glamour
People warmly greeted chief guest, Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra as she came on to the stage along with president Pratibha Patil.
Yingluck, the first woman Prime Minister of Thailand, became the fourth leader from Asia to be chief guest at India’s Republic Day
parade in the past four years, signalling the importance India attaches to the region.
Shinawatra is the third woman leader to be chief guest at R-Day celebrations in the last 63 years. Queen Elizabeth II was chief guest in 1961 and Sri Lanka’s Srimavo Bandaranaike in 1974.
The 44-year old Yingluck, a former businesswoman and known for her glamour quotient, came to Rajpath along with President Pratibha Patil escorted by horse-mounted presidential bodyguards. She was received by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the VVIP enclosure.
Shinawatra greeted the guests with a namaste before settling down in the bullet-proof enclosure along with Singh and vice-president Hamid Ansai.
Agni-IV the Cynosure
The crowd erupted into applause when it was announced that the Agni-IV missile, successfully flight tested last November, was showcased. It actually stole the limelight as people cheered when the missile which can carry nuclear weapons was rolled out on the majestic Rajpath.
Woman Pilot Creates R-Day History
Sneha Shekhawat from Sikar in Rajasthan created history when she led the Air Force contingent, becoming the first woman pilot to do so. Flight Lt Shekhawat was assisted by three other women Flying Officers Heena Pore, Anupam Chaudhary and Pooja Negi. She was cheered by thousands of spectators as the commentator mentioned that she is the first woman to lead an Air Force contingent in the 63-year-old history of the parade. Shekhawat is at posted with the IAF squadron at Hindon air base.
A Super Hercules Flypast
The icing on the cake was the flypast. Spectators were spellbound as IAF pilots did dare-devil formations in the sky like ‘Trishul’, ‘Big Boy’, ‘Arrowhead’ and ‘Vertical Charlie’. This time, the new element in the flypast was the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, bought recently from the US. The aircraft has created a record for carrying out the longest flight of nine hours and 45 minutes without refuelling. The flypast began with three Mi-35 helicopters in a Vic formation followed by the three Super Hercules, again in a Vic formation. An IL-78 flanked by two AN-32s and two Dorniers trailed them in a Big Boy formation. Next in line were the fighters: five Jaguars followed by five MiG-29 flying in Arrowhead formation. Then came three Su-30 MKIs in a Trishul formation. Right at the saluting dais, the Su-30MKIs split upwards, making a Trishul in the sky.