New Delhi: The idea of Atithi Devo Bhava, which underlines the significance India attaches to its guests, explains why French soldiers, who are one of the major attractions of this year's Republic Day parade, get a prime slot in the ceremony. French President Francois Hollande is the chief guest at the ceremony.
The group of 130 soldiers from the French army (Armee de Terre) along with their band, rehearsed for a week to get in sync with Indian soldiers. Now they will be second in line at the parade.
"Indian troopers march a little faster than us. After rigorous practice for over a week, we have tried our best to synchronise," Lieutenant Colonel P Bury, commanding officer of the 35th Infantry Regiment of the French Army, who is leading the troops, told Firstpost.
The French forces comprise soldiers from the 7th Armoured Brigade and 35th Infantry Regiment.
Asked how they felt about participating in an event where their president is the chief guest, he said, "We are excited. We are extremely happy and honoured to know that France is the first country to take part in this prestigious ceremony. We are very impressed by the parade. We are very proud to represent France and to be the first foreign unit to be invited to parade at Rajpath," he said.
On 14 July, 2009, Indian troops had participated in the Bastille Day celebrations in France. The three wings of the Indian defence forces - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force - marched down the Champs Elysees in Paris along with the French Army. The event also witnessed participation of the Maratha light infantry, which is one of the oldest regiments of the Indian Army.
The French will not march the full 12.5-km route up to Red Fort for security reasons. Their march will end at Man Singh Road.
Asked whether they learnt any Hindi from Indian soldiers, he replied, "Not much...only a few like saavdhan (attention)." On what he liked the most in this country, he added, "India's cultural diversity that is also evident in the forces here and tableau set to be demonstrated on 26 January."
Other attractions of the 67th Republic Day parade
First all-women stunt contingent: So far, extreme motorcycle stunts performed by men of Indian Army Corps of Signals or Army Daredevils used to be the centre of attraction at the Republic Day parade. Sources reveal that in a departure from norm, an all-women contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force will enthral the audience with their dangerous riding skills.
"We have been preparing for the last two years to make a debut in the Republic Day parade. Finally, we got the chance to prove that women are not lagging behind in any walk of life, be it stunts or fighting for the nation," said one of the soldiers of the Women Daredevils CRPF contingent. The unit comprises 120 troops.
Army dog squad: Thirty-six German Shepherds and Labradors of the Army, trained in explosive detection, mine detection, tracking, guarding and assault will march down the Rajpath after a gap of 26 years.
The Army dogs belonging to the Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) have won one Shourya Chakra, six Sena Medals, 142 COAS Commendation Cards, six VCOAS Commendation Cards and 448 GOC-in-C Commendation Cards. The motto of the Corps is 'Pashu Seva Ashmakam Dharm'.
According to Major General Rajesh Sahai, chief of staff, Delhi area, the participation of the dog squad is a form of "recognition of the work done by the animal and its handler in counter-insurgency". "Dogs have done a fantastic job in counter-insurgency tasks," he added.