Not only commemorating 50 years of 1971 Liberation War but also in a show of gratitude and respect to those Muktibahinis and the Indian Army soldiers who had fought shoulder-to-shoulder and sacrificed their lives for the freedom of 'East Bengal', now Bangladesh, some 122 personnel of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, for the first time, will march on Rajpath alongside their Indian counterparts during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.

This will be the third time when the Republic Day parade in India will see the participation of a foreign military contingent after the French troops in 2016 and the United Arab Emirates personnel a year later.

Lucknow: Children holding National Flags celebrate Independence Day, in Lucknow on Aug 14, 2019.
Lucknow: Children holding National Flags celebrate Independence Day, in Lucknow on Aug 14, 2019.IANS

High symbolism associated with Liberation

According to the Bangladesh Army, there is "a high symbolism" associated with the presence of the Bangladeshi military contingent in India's Republic Day event, which showcases the country's military might, economic development and cultural diversity.

Col Mohtashim Hyder Chowdhury, who is leading the country's military contingent, told local newspaper The Daily Star, "Most of the parade personnel are from those Bangladesh units that were raised during the 1971 Liberation War. In fact, we are going to take part in the parade in India at a time when our country is celebrating 2020-21 year as the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and also the 50th year of Bangladesh's independence."

He added that there are two contingents, one marching contingent while the other a military band. The tri-service contingent will be led by a flight lieutenant, navy lieutenant, one Major and three Lt Colonels.

A proud moment for martyrs

Republic Day

Chief of Staff (Delhi area) Major Gen Alok Kacker, whose father Brig PN Kacker had commanded the second battalion in 9 Gorkha Rifles that fought in the Liberation War, called it a "nostalgic moment". Kacker is also the parade's second-in-command.

He told the Daily that his father's battalion had fought against Pakistani troops and crossed the Madhumati river for which his unit later won a battle honour pedestal. "I feel proud to be a second-generation officer from the same unit," Kacker added.

Reports have stated that the Bangladeshi military contingent was flown in an Indian Air Force aircraft for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi. The visiting troops had to spend the first week in quarantine, as per Covid-19 protocol, before they began rehearsal in a run up to the parade.

Republic Day event curtailed by pandemic

The parade this year will be shorter, involving fewer participants and accommodating only one fourth of the usual number of spectators each year at the Rajpath. The ceremonial event has also been curtailed due to the pandemic.

Republic Day

During the 71st Republic Day, the Indian Air Force will showcase the Rafale fighter jets purchased from France, flying past at the culmination of the parade. Some new formations – "Rudra", "Sudharshan", "Rakshak", "Eklavya", and "Brahmastra" - will also be seen in addition for the first time.

IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Indranil Nandi said that up to 42 aircraft, including 15 fighters, five transport, and a vintage one, will be seen in the flypast.

In a similar manner, last year's Independence Day celebrations were also muted as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and measures imposed to check the spread of the disease, with fewer important guests attending the annual event at the Red Fort on August 15.