NEW DELHI • India showcased its cultural heritage and military hardware in the capital yesterday as the country celebrated its 70th Republic Day, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as the guest of honour.
The South African leader joined President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a parade in New Delhi, the main attraction of national celebrations to commemorate the country's Constitution. India attained independence from British rule in 1947 and its Constitution came into force on Jan 26, 1950.
India's independence hero and apostle of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, was in focus at the Republic Day, with several tableaus depicting his life displayed at the parade.
India is this year celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi, who had a special connection with South Africa. Gandhi lived in South Africa for 21 years and it was there that he conceived the idea of non-violent political resistance.
Singapore's President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have written to Mr Kovind and Mr Modi respectively to congratulate them on the celebrations, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
In her letter to Mr Kovind, Madam Halimah said Singapore and India enjoy a special relationship rooted in deep historical ties, vibrant people-to-people linkages, regular high-level exchanges and strong economic cooperation.
"I am confident that relations between our two nations will continue to strengthen in the years to come," she said.
In his letter to Mr Modi, Mr Lee sent his warmest congratulations to India, and noted that the country has achieved great strides in its development as well as on the international stage. "The longstanding friendship between Singapore and India continues to expand with each passing year. Your two visits to Singapore last year gave strong momentum to our Strategic Partnership, especially in new areas of cooperation such as fintech and innovation," he said.
Large crowds thronged the parade, which featured a cultural extravaganza of dances and gymnastics as well as colourful floats from Indian states.
The parade included marching troops, military bands, a show of tanks, missiles and other military hardware, and camel-mounted paramilitary troops.