NEW DELHI: This handout photograph released and taken by the Indian Presidential Palace yesterday, shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (third right), President Ram Nath Kovind (second right) and President of South Africa Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa (right) arrive ahead of the 70th Republic Day parade in New Delhi. - AFP

Thousands watched as tanks, camel-mounted forces and motorbike stunt riders
paraded in New Delhi yesterday, as India marked its seventieth Republic Day in
an annual display of culture and military might. Security was tight, especially
in the capital where large sections were sealed off for the parade and visiting
dignitaries including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was the
guest of honor.

Around 25,000
police and paramilitary forces were deployed across the city for the event. The
day marks the date in 1950 when India's new constitution came into effect.
India gained independence from Britain in 1947, but went through a transitional
phase when it was still classed as a dominion.

The parade at the
heart of the Indian capital had the customary colorful array of security
forces, including camel-mounted border forces in vivid turbans, tanks, missiles
and groups from across the country in regional dress. On the eve of the national
day, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind urged people to vote in national
elections due by May.  "An election
is not just a political exercise. An election is a collective call to wisdom
and a collective call to action," Kovind said in his speech.

"This makes
the very act of voting a sacred act," he added. Prime Minister Narendra
Modi, who analysts say is locked in a hard-fought electoral battle, hopes to be
re-elected in the upcoming elections. Ramaphosa, who is leading a delegation to
India, held a meeting with Modi and said he hoped for closer bilateral
cooperation between the two countries. "(We) concluded this morning a
three year strategic program of cooperation," Ramaphosa told journalists
after the Friday meeting. -AFP