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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 08:16 GMT
India shows off on republic day
Workers erect flag for Republic Day in Delhi
India is marking its 55th Republic Day
India demonstrated its military might during a traditional Republic Day parade in Delhi amid tight security.

The parade was part of celebrations to mark the 55th anniversary of India's foundation as a republic.

Nearly 23,000 police personnel were deployed for the festivities and the airspace over the capital closed.

Monday's festivities took place against a background of improved relations between nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan.

Both countries have restored diplomatic and transport links after two years of hostility and agreed to discuss the long-running Kashmir dispute.

"The celebrations have a distinct flavour of bonhomie much different from 2002 when we were on the borders," retired army colonel Digvijay Rathore was quoted as saying by AFP.

Armed might

India's president, prime minister and other VIPs attended the parade, which stretched for eight kilometres.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the chief guest.

The parade included air displays by fighter aircraft and an exhibition of artillery and other weapons.

They include the supersonic Brahmos cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia.

Tens of thousands of people, including women and children, braved the morning chill to attend the parade held on a grand avenue at the heart of Delhi.

They waved the tricoloured Indian flag as supersonic aircraft blazed past.

'High alert'

A total strike was observed in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, where militants oppose recent peace initiatives taken by India and Pakistan and supported by moderate Kashmiri separatists.

Shops were closed and streets in the major towns deserted as people stayed indoors after the strike was called by Kashmiri separatists.

"Our boys are on high alert to prevent militant attacks," K Srinivasan of India's Border Security Force was quoted as saying by AFP.

The already tight security was stiffened further with the detention last week of the suspected operative of Hizb-e-Islami, which is fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

Police officials said he was carrying several kilograms of explosives.

In Delhi, extra police had been deployed to airports, railway stations, embassies and tourist spots.

Nearly 600 commandos from the elite National Security Guard and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police had been deployed in the capital.

The Indian Government set up a joint working group of officials from the home and defence ministries to meet any emergency on Republic Day.

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