India addresses the balance of power

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The Independent Online

Indian soldiers practiced myriad acrobatic stunts in Delhi yesterday in preparation for an elaborate military parade that will celebrate the nation's Republic Day later this month.

In the traditional show of strength that forms the main thread of the Indian capital's Republic Day celebrations, some soldiers rode decorated camels as others took part in carefully co-ordinated gymnastic displays on Indian-made Royal Enfield motorbikes, which have long been identified with the Indian military despite originally starting life in Worcestershire in 1890.

Thailand's first female Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was announced yesterday as guest of honour at this year's festivities, which will be held on 26 January. She will arrive in India for her three-day state visit two days before.

Republic Day is a public holiday to celebrate the anniversary of the day the Constitution of India came into effect in 1950 after almost a century of British rule. India had been in charge of its own affairs since the transfer of power from British to Indian hands on 15 August 1947, but Republic Day marks the day India's first president, Dr Rajendra Prasad, was sworn in to replace the British monarch as head of state.

The parade will start in the grand Lutyens-designed Raisina Hill area, which is home to many of India's government buildings. It will pass the stately presidential palace before travelling along Rajpath (King's Street) ceremonial boulevard and arriving at India Gate, India's official national monument.