New Delhi – India showcased its military might with tanks and flyovers by roaring fighter jets in the heart of New Delhi Thursday to mark its annual Republic Day.
The yearly parade is a tightly choreographed spectacle of motorbike stunts, traditional dance and camel-mounted soldiers at a time when the emergent Asian power faces onerous security challenges.
Republic Day marks the adoption of India’s post-independence constitution and Thursday’s event is the latest of several ceremonies commemorating 75 years since the end of British colonial rule last August.
For the first time the parade was held in the revamped colonial-era boulevard that hosts India’s most important government buildings, following years of renovations at the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government.
“We will move together to fulfil the dreams of the heroes of our freedom movement,” Modi wrote on Twitter to mark the occasion.
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India has benefitted in recent years from an increasing economic heft and diplomatic clout that has raised its position in global affairs.
However, Modi’s government is grappling with the urgent task of overhauling its outdated armed forces.
Its military establishment is also fretting over a growing assertiveness by China along its vast Himalayan frontier, which in 2019 sparked a lingering diplomatic freeze after a deadly high-altitude confrontation between troops of both countries.
India unveiled its first locally built aircraft carrier last year as part of government efforts to build an indigenous defence industry and reduce reliance on Russia, historically its most important arms supplier.
An effort to reform military recruitment to trim down India’s bloated defence payroll stalled last year after a backlash from aspiring soldiers, who burned train carriages and clashed with police in heated protests.
The parade’s guest of honour, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, is the first major world leader to visit India in a year the government is eagerly preparing to host the G20 summit for the first time.
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