At India’s Republic Day celebrations today in Delhi, and partly since President Hollande is on a visit to India and was the chief guest, a French military contingent led the way at the grand Republic Day parade. It is the first time that foreign military forces have participated in the Republic Day parade. In 2009, a contingent of 400 Indian troops from the three services participated in the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris and led the march down the Champs Elysee. At that time PM Manmohan Singh was President Sarkozy’s guest.
I first visited the Republic Day parades as a child, three or four times, in the late 1950s and then had the privilege of attending three times between 2000 and 2006. It is one of the annual, spectacular highlights of the Delhi calendar and even the invariable, early morning, January mist cannot dim the colour and spectacle and pageantry of the occasion. It is also a strange but unique juxtaposition of cultural and military displays, which works remarkably well for a spectacle. India only became a Republic in 1950 and my fading memory of the early parades is of something much smaller with very little security, but still of the same stirring mix and colour and pageantry. The Republic Day celebrations in Delhi end with a less showy – but much more impressive -Beating the Retreat ceremony, around sunset on 29th January.
IBTimes: For the first time in the history of India’s Republic Day parades, a foreign contingent marched in New Delhi on the country’s 67th Republic Day. A French Army contingent from the 35th Infantry Regiment, one of the oldest active regiments of France, took the historic steps by saluting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, as chief guest of honour French President Francois Hollande watched and clapped. ….. The contingent led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Bury had been practising for the parade for more than a week. ……. The choice for the 35th Infantry regiment was not random and kept in tandem with Indo-French military relations dating back to centuries. The 35th Infantry Regiment founded in the 1600’s and now headquartered in Belfort, served in India, joining the army of Hyder Ali, a south-Indian leader, by fighting British troops between 1781 and 1784. The motto of the regiment is “tous gaillards, pas d’trainards”, meaning “all strapping fellows, no dawdlers”.
The parade – which is touted to be Europe’s oldest and largest military parade – is held to commemorate the birth of the French revolution in 1789.
Indian troops led French military personnel down the Champs Elysee. The Indian contingent of 400 personnel – comprising personnel from the army, the navy and the air force – marched 1.5 km – from the Arc de Triomphe to the presidential stand.
The contingent – led by jawans from the Maratha Light Infantry, one of India’s oldest army regiments – marched to a 90-member Indian band.