NEW DEHLI – The national capital was on Tuesday wrapped in a security blanket for the 67th Republic Day celebrations, with 50,000 armed officers of Delhi Police, NSG and paramilitary forces maintaining hawk-eye vigil to ensure a safe visit of the chief guest, French President Francois Hollande.
France President Francois Hollande is in India as the chief guest for the Republic Day parade on Tuesday. Ahead of the parade, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hollande held a press conference speaking about the bilateral ties of the two countries.
All entry points to in the city – which has already been put on high alert after the recent attack on the Pathankot airbase and pan-India arrests of over a dozen suspected Islamic State sympathisers – were under the strict watch to pre-empt any possible terror strike. Hollande will be the fifth French president to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations over the decades.
He will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, an invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended to show solidarity after the assault on the French capital which killed 130 people. Hollande and Modi will sit together at the annual parade, a pomp-filled spectacle of military might which includes columns of Soviet-era tanks.
Hollande on Monday said that his visit to India was aimed at strengthening and reinforcing the cooperation against terrorism between our two countries. He also said India and France will work to improve economic relations in the field of agriculture and space. The French president was given a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on his second day of his three-day visit to India.
Police said that 50,000 security personnel – around 15,000 from the paramilitary forces, 34,000 from Delhi Police and 1,000 from National Security Guard (NSG) – were being deployed on the streets of the capital from 5am on January 26. The city will be under close watch of 15,000 CCTV cameras on Republic Day.
NSG snipers will maintain vigil from high-rise buildings within a 2km radius of Rajpath – the spacious central vista of the capital from where the French president along with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Modi will be watching the parade. In significant remarks against the backdrop of the Pathankot attack, President Mukherjee said on Monday that disagreement with neighbours should be resolved through dialogue but “we cannot discuss peace under a shower of bullets”.
He also said that terrorism was a war beyond any doctrine and is a cancer which must be operated out with a firm scalpel. “There is no good or bad terrorism; it is pure evil,” the president said in his address to the nation on the eve of 67th Republic Day. He urged Indians to shun violence, intolerance and unreason.