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Saturday, 26 January, 2002, 11:20 GMT
India spends Republic Day on alert
Indian border forces on camels at Delhi parade
The parade is a showcase for the country's strengths
Celebrations have been taking place in India to mark the day the country became a republic, with much tighter security in place than usual.

Indian president K.R. Narayanan, prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and key ministers were among those watching the annual Republic Day parade in the capital Delhi.

Arrangements have been made to thwart any attempt by militants to use unmanned flying objects

Delhi Police Commissioner
Ajay Raj Sharma

They attended despite security concerns at a time of heightened tension with neighbouring Pakistan.

The parade, which showcases the country's military strength and cultural diversity, was cut short and the route changed for security reasons.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Delhi says it was still an impressive display of military hardware, marching soldiers, cavalry on horses and camels and military bands.

Huge missiles were also on show - a reminder of the test that India carried out a day earlier on a new version of the intercontinental Agni missile.
Police commandoes on patrol at parade
More than 50,000 men were deployed to ensure tight security

More than 50,000 police and security officers were on duty in Delhi. Snipers were posted on high-rise buildings, air space above the parade was closed and for the first time bunkers were built along its route.

Reuters news agency said even the flower petals usually strewn along the seven kilometre (4.5 mile) route had been banned for fear they could hide bombs.

Border troubles

The extra security has been triggered by the continuing standoff between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

A huge build-up of Indian forces near the international border with Pakistan and along the line of control in Kashmir has meant fewer soldiers taking part in the parade.

Delhi police said there had been threats from Kashmiri separatist groups to disrupt the parade, and last week arrested four men allegedly planning an attack.

An Indian policeman frisks a Kashmiri Muslim in Srinagar
Police are taking no chances in Kashmir
Reports from Indian-administered Kashmir said ceremonies there passed off without major incident.

Militant groups are observing a two-day general strike and have declared Republic Day a black day.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf sent a message of greeting to the Indian prime minister for Republic Day, urging him to join efforts for peace and end the tense standoff between the two countries.

A high alert has also been continuing in Calcutta, where more than 10,000 policemen are on duty following last week's attack on an American cultural centre.

Quiet in Bhuj

In contrast to most of the rest of India, no celebrations took place in Bhuj - one of the towns in Gujarat which was worst affected by an earthquake a year ago today.

The BBC's Jill McGivering, who is in Bhuj, says many people came quietly out of their houses to be in the open air at 8.45 (local), the time the tremor struck.

About 20,000 people died in the earthquake and the homes of tens of thousands were destroyed.

See also:

26 Jan 02 | South Asia
Musharraf sends peace message to Delhi
22 Jan 02 | South Asia
Gunmen attack US centre in Calcutta
17 Jan 01 | South Asia
Indian missile test angers Pakistan
16 Dec 01 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Tense neighbours
20 Mar 00 | South Asia
South Asia's nuclear race
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