NEW DELHI: A huge and loud cheer from over 1.25 lakh spectators went up as US President Barack Obama alighted at the historic Rajpath in the Delhi drizzle from his ‘Beast’ on Monday to witness Indian military might and cultural diversity on the 66th Republic Day. A poster in the crowd read “We love Obama”. His arrival in the armoured Beast was a departure from tradition, as the Chief Guest always arrives on the Indian President’s vehicle.
Holding umbrellas, Barack and Michelle Obama witnessed the parade along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee from a dais erected behind a special bullet-proof enclosure, amid unprecedented security. Modi was seen in a multi-coloured bandhej safa (Jodhpuri turban) and sunglasses.
Though the US has overtaken Russia as the biggest arms supplier to India, Obama witnessed a large number of Russian military inventory in the Army such as tanks, jet fighters and helicopters.
Nari shakti (women power) was the theme of the parade and for the first time all-women contingents from the three services marched down Rajpath. In fact, the national flag was hoisted for the first time by woman officer Lieutenant Haobam Bella Devi, who hails from Manipur.
Four Russian made Mi-17 V5 helicopters with the tricolour and flags of the three services flew over the wet Rajpath as the two-hour parade, the longest in recent history, began. General Officer Commanding, Delhi area Lieutenant General Subroto Mitra was the parade commander.
Though Obama watched several Russian-made Indian military arsenal, including T-90 tanks and MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets, newly acquired military hardware from the US was also displayed.
The C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft, C-17 Globemaster heavy list aircraft and P8I maritime patrol aircraft, which were recently acquired from the US, were displayed during the spectacular flypast.