India's military might was on display in capital New Delhi's iconic Rajpath for the 69th Republic Day as 10 heads of state of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries were invited as special guests for the event. Alongside the marching contingents, acrobatic army staff and cruising fighter jets in formation, a colourful tableau showcasing the cultural variety was also staged for the visiting leaders.
Special focus on this year's event was placed on the Indian navy and maritime security, given India's relations with the Asean member states.
This is also the first time so many heads of state or government attended India's Republic Day on 26 January, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a point to invite at least one special guest every year. While leaders of Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) – a loosely aligned geopolitical organisation of nations in South Asia – were invited for Modi's first Republic Day event, subsequent years witnessed the presence of US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande while they were in office.
The Modi government touted the presence of Asean leaders at the event as a symbolic gesture to acknowledge India's upgrade from "Look East" policy to "Act East".
"We are committed to working with ASEAN for maritime cooperation," said the Indian prime minister.
The visiting leaders included Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Singaporean Premier Lee Hsien Loong and Brunei's Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Laos Thongloun Sisoulith and Cambodian Premier Hun Sen.
Indian army's T-90 tank, Brahmos Missile System and Akash Weapon System were some of the key attractions that were on display at the ceremony while replicas of some of India's indigenous aircraft were also paraded. Just like previous years, the main attraction was the aerial manoeuvres performed by the Indian Air Force.
More than 60,000 security personnel were deployed across the Indian capital as part of tight security arrangements. Thousands of visitors, beside the top military and civilian leadership, also gathered to have a look at the 90-minute-long parade.