UAE joins ‘India’s Republic Day’ celebrations

Mohammad Bin Zayed, chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, reaffirms long-standing ties between UAE and India

India’s Republic Day is an example of positive values propelling nations into greatness and the UAE’s participation in it reflects deep-rooted Emirati-Indian relations, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said on Thursday.

His comments came as the UAE and India celebrated their friendship in glorious fashion yesterday, with a contingent of 179 UAE soldiers creating history by marching on Rajpath in New Delhi for the first time as a part of India’s 68th Republic Day parade.

“Republic Day marks a turning point in Indian history: a political system that celebrates diversity within a unified national fabric,” Shaikh Mohammad said in a series of tweets soon after the conclusion of the morning’s pageantry, where he was the chief guest. “I am very delighted and honored to share Republic Day celebrations with the Indian people. India sends a civilized message to the rest of the world as its people — from diverse ethnicities, religions, and sects celebrate in unity,” he said.

Observing that the UAE’s participation was the result of a long-standing relationship based on mutual respect and common interests, Shaikh Mohammad said: “Republic Day is an example of how positive values propel nations into greatness. This is something that we in the UAE take at heart.”

Shaikh Mohammad witnessed the hourlong parade flanked by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

UAE contingent

It was a proud moment for the UAE and the Arab world, with its troops comprising a mix from the army, navy and air force leading the parade. The UAE contingent was led by Brigadier Obaid Al Zahumi, while Major-General Rajesh Sahai was the second in command from the Indian side. The UAE contingent’s march was as impressive as the melodious tune of Kaptien that its band played along, prompting dozens of delighted members of the UAE delegation to rush for pictures of the historic moment. The march of the UAE contingent also met with huge applause from the crowd.

While the UAE is the second country after France to send its troops to participate in the Indian Republic Day parade, they became the first Arab troops to march on Rajpath, the historic boulevard that connects the Rashtrapati Bhavan (presidential palace) to the iconic India Gate at the heart of the Indian capital.

From a 21-gun salute that accompanied the Indian national anthem to initiate the day’s proceedings to a stunning display by motorcycle daredevils from the Indian army, the Republic Day ceremony stood out in all splendor despite the occasional drizzle and overcast skies. In a happy coincidence, a heavy downpour that drenched Delhi throughout the afternoon began moments after the conclusion of the morning’s ceremony.

The morning started with the arrival of Shaikh Mohammad and Mukherjee to the specially made enclosure on Rajpath, where Shaikh Mohammad was received by Modi. Following Republic Day protocol, Modi presented to the Chief Guest and the President the Indian minister of defense, the three military service chiefs, and the defense secretary.

Following the national anthem accompanied by a 21-gun salute, a formation fly-past by Indian Air Force 
helicopters marked the beginning of the parade.

The parade, which aims to showcase India’s cultural diversity as well as its military might, honors the day in 1950 when the Indian constitution came into force and Dr Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India.

Marches by various army columns, especially the mechanized ones displaying the Bhishma T-90 tanks and the Brahmos and Akash missile defense systems drew gasps of amazement from the thousands of people who had gathered since early in the morning, among them several UAE ministers, top officials, business delegates and other dignitaries from the country.

Parade highlights

Among the highlights of the spectacular parade was a march by the Indian Border Security Force’s Camel Contingent — the world’s only camel-mounted cavalry. The contingent’s band — also the first camel-mounted — was raised in 1987 by Rajasthan Frontier of the force. Apart from their colorful livery, every man in the contingent is required to be more than 6 feet tall and must sport the same-looking decorative moustache. The contingent of the male camels was led by Deputy Commandant Kuldeep Seervi.

Among other visual delights of the morning were enchanting tableaux from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu showcasing traditional folk dances of the states, a display of Yak dance from Arunachal Pradesh, an enticing musical serenade by the Goan tableau and a stunning display of skills by the Indian army’s motorcycle daredevils.

In typical Republic Day fashion, India also showcased several government initiatives in the social, industrial and technology sectors through innovative tableaux displays, such as the Clean India Green India initiative, the 75th anniversary of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Save the Girl Child campaign by the Haryana government and the Prime Minister’s Urban Housing scheme.

A massive security lockdown was in place since Wednesday night, with the Indian capital under a ground-to-air security blanket. Policemen and special forces from Delhi Police fanned out throughout the city to keep a watchful eye.

Posters notifying the public of the closure of key roads, traffic diversions and rules for the temporary security protocol were posted on every street corner and junction, as ubiquitous as the flags of the UAE around the key streets and landmarks of Delhi. Despite the long queues and the downpour, the crowd seemed to enjoy every moment of the carnival atmosphere.