New Delhi: When Barack Obama, the first US president to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade Jan 26, witnesses India display its defence prowess and its diverse culture, what would come through for discerning military observers is the legacy of the country's long-standing strategic ties with Russia.
However, evidence of the new-found India-US friendship will be at the tailend of the 90-minute parade in the shape of US P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft, C-130J special operations aircraft and the C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift aircraft.
The Republic Day is the only time of the year when critical defence systems, artillery, and equipment ranging from tanks to missiles is brought out for public display. This year, like in the past, the three wings of the armed forces will field their marching contingents and systems in the parade, followed by a cultural pageant and the flypast.
However, the Russian element will begin with Russian Mi-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) trailing the tricolour and showering petals on the spectators ahead of the parade and will continue with the Indian Army's mechanised columns led by the T-90 Bhishma. India had bought this main battle tank after delays in the production of the domestically developed Arjun MBT - and to counter Pakistan's deployment of the Ukrainian T-80UD.
Also marking its presence will be the BMP-II (Sarath), the Indian license-produced variant of the Russian second-generation, amphibious infantry combat vehicle introduced in the 1980s.
Similarly, the T-72 tank, which now has a trawl attachment to detonate mines, is of Soviet origin.
These will be followed by world's fastest cruise missile in operation, the Brahmos, which can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land and is the pride of the Indian armed forces. It is a joint venture between Russia's NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) through BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited.
The flypast will include the Sukhoi-30 MKI, the most potent fighter jet of Indian Air Force and another key venture between India and Russia.
This will be followed by the Indian Navy's MiG-29K and its IAF variant.
India was the first international customer of the MiG-29 when the IAF ordered more than 50 in 1980.
As for the US aircraft, all three will be making their debut at the parade.
Perhaps this is what is meant by not putting all your eggs in one basket.
Sunday January 25, Anjali Ojha, IANS