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SOURCE: HT

A marching contingent of the Bangladesh army will take part in the Republic Day parade of 2021, the second time foreign soldiers will be marching down Rajpath as part of India’s biggest ceremonial event, officials familiar with preparations said on Saturday. The Bangladeshi contingent has been invited to take part in the parade at a time the two countries are celebrating the golden jubilee of the birth of Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi marching contingent will consist of 96 soldiers. They will be carrying their BD-08 rifles during the march past, a license-produced variant of the Chinese Type 817.62mm assault weapon, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The Bangladesh Ordnance Factories produce more than 10,000 such assault rifles every year.

Foreign soldiers took part in the parade for the first time in 2016 when a French army contingent of 130 soldiers marched down Rajpath. Then French President Francois Hollande witnessed the parade as the chief guest that year.

The parade this year will be shorter, involve fewer participants and only a fourth of the usual number of spectators will be allowed at Rajpath, with the ceremonial event being curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, as reported by Hindustan Times on December 30.

The marching contingents will be seen in a rectangular formation this year instead of the traditional square formation because of fewer participants being allowed in the squads.

These squads will only have 96 participants compared to 144 in the ordinary course. The shortened route of the parade will see it end at the National Stadium instead of Red Fort, the officials said

Fewer people will be allowed to witness the parade, with the government following strict social distancing protocols. Not more than 25,000 spectators will be allowed at Rajpath this year, compared to over 100,000 people who usually turn up for the parade. Children below the age of 15 will not be permitted at the parade.

Last year’s Independence Day celebrations were also muted as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and measures imposed to check the spread of the disease, with fewer VIPs attending the annual August 15 event at Delhi’s Red Fort while school children skipped it altogether.