India’s Republic Day celebrations have only become bigger and grander over the years — putting on display the military and cultural might of the nation. While the grand celebrations can hardly be questioned, these are not ordinary times for India, which is in the middle of a pandemic. Different opinions have been voiced that question the wisdom of holding a parade of this magnitude.
But that’s just one way to see it. In my opinion, the Republic Day celebrations couldn’t have come at a better time. India needs to celebrate, especially because the country has seen crises, one after the other — from a hostile neighbour showing its aggression to a health emergency that has stretched our collective social infrastructure, to an economy that is under severe stress.
A celebration to say all will be well
As we begin the year on a positive note that has been set in by rolling out of the vaccine, the Republic Day parade will serve to reassure every Indian that the worst is behind us and the country, government and the administration is capable of taking care of its citizens. The military might on display in the parade will assure every citizen that India is fully capable of meeting all external threats. Remember the Drone Swarm that was showcased during the Army Day parade on 15 of January and the buzz it created around the world? It has captured the imagination of international media, the analysts and other militaries. That is the kind of reassurance the 26 January parade too shall provide to all Indians.
The parade will also showcase India’s latest achievements, be it is weaponry, equipment or its scientific might. We need to showcase the vaccine that India — which produces over 60 per cent of the world’s vaccines — has developed and is mass-producing for the world. We have rolled out the largest vaccination drive in the world, and above all, helped our neighbours by gifting them with over five million doses.
What is the purpose of a parade?
World over, parades either commemorate a victory or showcase the military might or cultural pageantry, or both. They seek to reassure the citizens regarding the capability of the State to take care of its people by keeping them safe from external threats. Parades also send out a statement to the world about a country’s security capability and the role it can play as a dependable participant in the global community. This, in turn, evokes the confidence of other countries in its stability, ultimately leading to better economic growth and development. It sets up a positive spiral.
The year gone by has been a very trying one for India. For the first time in around half-a-century, we got drawn into a conflict with the Chinese in Eastern Ladakh, and it is not over yet. The country went through an economic downturn and faced several upheavals and agitations, like the ongoing farmers’ protest. And all this happened in the shadow of a pandemic, in which millions of people lost their lives that caused trauma and sadness to millions more. However, the country has been resilient enough to battle the pandemic, with grit and perseverance.
If there are fears around the parade and the public gathering going against the norms of social distancing, then let everyone be rest assured that whether it is the participants or spectators, the authorities and the forces will ensure all rules are followed, as was seen in the Army Day parade. The number of spectators has already been reduced drastically compared to previous years.
There are also those who question: now that the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declined to attend the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest, why is India still going ahead with the Republic Day parade? There cannot be a more churlish thought. The foreign dignitary is only the chief guest, the stress being on the guest. The chief guest is never the chief reason why the parade is held. The Republic Day parade of India is for the Indians, to take pride in.
Lieutenant General (retd) Satish Dua @TheSatishDua was Corps Commander in Kashmir and retired as the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff. Views are personal.