The Republic Day parade will not only bear a signature of women empowerment and developed Bharat but showcase a French contingent marching along with Indian armed forces personnel at the Kartavya Path on Friday. Also participating in the flypast would be two Rafale fighter jets and a refueler aircraft at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron will be the Chief Guest for the January 26 celebrations.

Delhi Area Commander Major General Sumit Mehta, who will be the Deputy Commandant for the RD parade, on Tuesday told reporters that the contingent from France, which comprises Indian and Nepali origin members as well, will march and a French refuel aircraft along with two Rafale fighters will fly from a base in their country to zip past over them in Delhi skies.

An officer in the French Foreign Legion, Captain Loic Alexandre, present at the Indian Army’s briefing on Tuesday, said he was honoured to be in India for Republic Day celebrations “We are very honoured to be here in India. The French army was invited and we saw the Indian army in Paris, France, last year. So they proved that they are part of a great army and that’s why we are very proud to be here with them,” Alexandre said.

Alexandre said 130 personnel from the French Army and Airforce will march on Kartavya Path on Republic Day. “For this very special occasion, Republic Day in India, we are 130 people who are marching on Kartavya Path...There is the music band on the French... and then infantry regiment, the second foreign infantry regiment that’s based in the south of France,” he said.

Interestingly, the French contingent too will have women officials. A woman will be on board the Airbus aircraft and a French Air Force pilot will command the contingent for the occasion, he elaborated during the media interaction ahead of the parade.

Women participation

Talking about the highlights of the parade, Major General Mehta said women participation is very high since 80 per cent of activities will be done by them at the Kartavya path starting with “avahan” by women artists who would be blowing conches and playing other Indian instruments like drums . The Indian Army is also giving adequate space to narishakti in its marching contingent and display to align with similar initiatives of the two other services of Indian Navy and Air Force.

Leading the first-ever all-women tri-services contingent at the Republic Day parade, Captain Sandhya observed, “...The experience of witnessing women soldiers from all three services coming together as one contingent is amazing. It is remarkable. We came here as three different components but trained together as one. We are marching together at Kartavya Path as ambassadors of ‘Nari Shakti’...”

Another woman officer chosen for the parade, Lieutenant Colonel Ankita Chauhan from the Corps of Signals, was equally ecstatic. “I am representing the Drone jammer systems for this year’s Republic Day parade. To mitigate the drone threats the Indian Army has inducted this equipment recently...The experience has been amazing and it has been a great opportunity...,” she commented.

This year has turned out lucky for couples in uniform as well. Major Jerry Blaize, leading the Madras regiment marching contingent, and his wife Captain Supreetha, who is a member of the tri-services women contingent, are participating as a couple in the RD parade for the second time. The previous participation in Kartavya Path was as a National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadet. Likewise, Major Sarabjeet Singh and his wife, an Indian Coast Guard (ICG) Assistant Commandant Chunauti Sharma, too will march through in two different contingents. “I think it is happening for the first time that both husband & wife are commanding and leading a contingent on Kartavya Path...We are very happy to do that,” Major Singh told reporters.

Army will also showcase indigenously manufactured equipment and systems to give a glimpse of self-reliance in the defence sector.