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India to display key military assets on Republic Day; contingent of Bangladesh excited to march down Rajpath


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NEW DELHI: India will be displaying some of its key military assets, such as T-90 tanks and BrahMos missile system, during the 72nd Republic Day celebrations on Rajpath, with a marching-cum-band contingent of the Bangladesh armed forces all set to take part in the ceremonial parade for the first time.

The leader of the 122-member contingent on Saturday thanked India for the gesture and said, the "enduring relationship" between the two countries is growing day by day.

The Bangladeshi contingent, with members drawn from all the three wings of its armed forces, will be the first marching contingent to walk down the ceremonial boulevard on January 26.

India's military might and some of the state-of-the-art assets of the armed forces, including three T-90 tanks, BrahMos missile system, BMP-II, two Pinaka multiple launch rocket system, two bridge laying tanks, electronic warfare equipment Samvijay and one upgraded Schilka air defence weapon system, will be showcased during the parade on Rajpath, which will be held following COVID-19 safety guidelines.

"This year, no new asset will be displayed, but upgraded versions of various key assets and equipment will be there," Chief of Staff, Delhi Area, Maj Gen Alok Kacker, told reporters.

He said 18 marching contingents - 16 marching and two animal-mounted - will take part in the parade from the armed forces, paramilitary forces, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme, along with bands, including 15 from the military.

The 61 Cavalry, consisting of 43 horses, will be marching down the Rajpath as part of the mounted column.

Due to COVID-19 safety norms, there will be no motorcycle display this time, a major attraction for the crowd at Republic Day celebrations on the Rajpath, and also the veterans marching contingent will also not be there, Kacker said.

The contingents in the parade will stop at the National Stadium this year instead of following the regular route all the way to the Red Fort, primarily due to COVID-19 safety norms, Kacker added.

Responding to queries from reporters, he said bands and contingents have arrived from various parts of the country and about 260 members had tested COVID-19 positive out of the 3,000-odd pool, and they were quarantined and their primary contacts traced and tested, until they tested negative twice.

"Also, the fact that the contingent size has been reduced from regular 144 to 96, gives us an in-built reserve. But, we are all safe and fresh and raring to go on Rajpath on January 26," Kacker said.

He said COVID-19 safety norms have been followed from day one and contingents have moved from "bubble to bubble" to minimise all scope of infection.

A full dress rehearsal of the parade was held on Saturday morning.

Capt Preeti Choudhary from 140 AD Regt (SP) will be commanding the upgraded Schilka weapon system as part of the mechanised column on Rajpath, officials said.

The newly inducted Rafale fighter aircraft will feature in India's Republic Day parade on January 26 and culminate the flypast by carrying out the 'Vertical Charlie' formation.

Col Md Mohtashim Chowdhury, the leader of the Bangladesh contingent said, "We feel very fortunate that India has given our country this opportunity. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh and also we are in the midst of birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. So, we are very happy to be here."

The members of the contingent are drawn mostly from units raised during the 1971 war, and several other units which were raised before it, he said.

This is the third time that a contingent from a foreign country will be taking part in the Republic Day celebrations here.

The other two countries being France (2016) and the UAE (2017).

According to information shared with the media, for the Beating Retreat ceremony on January 29, a special composition 'Swarnim Vijay', to commemorate 50 years of India's victory in the 1971 war, has been done, besides a few other tune compositions.

Officials on Friday had said that bravery awardee children parade on jeep will also not be there at the 72nd Republic Day event, on account of social distancing.

Also, there will be no chief guest at the event this year.

"This year's Republic Day is very different as it is happening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Like in Independence Day, all chairs in enclosures will be placed following social distancing norms. So, the crowd size has come down to 25,000 this time from around 1. 25 lakh last year or some of the previous years," an official had said.

At Saturday's press conference, heads of some of the marching regiments, and Param Vir Chakra winners Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav and Subedar Sanjay Singh were also present, and interacted with reporters, sharing stories of valor from the Kargil war of 1999.

Lt Gen Vijay Kumar Mishra, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, will be the parade commander and Maj Gen Kacker will be the Second-in-Command, officials said.

Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra awardees will be part of the parade, they said.

A total of 32 tableaux -- 17 of various states and UTs, nine of ministries and six from defence arm, including of IAF, Navy, Indian Naval Coast Guard, two from the DRDO and one from BRO (Border Roads Organisation) -- will roll down Rajpath, officials said on Friday.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)