Saturday, January 28, 2012


Thai PM joins India’s national day celebrations

  • Saturday, January 28, 2012
  • Arunthathi Kanagaratnam
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  • India: Thailand's premier was guest of honour on Thursday at India's 63rd Republic Day celebrations, an annual display of the country's military might held amid tight security.

    Yingluck Shinawatra, who flew to New Delhi on Monday, is making her first official visit to the country to promote trade, which the Asian partners hope to double to $14 billion by 2014 from its 2010 level.

    Shinawatra, who became Thailand's first female prime minister in August, was seated with Pratibha Patil, India's first woman president and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as marching bands and military hardware filed past.

    On Wednesday, Thailand and India agreed to speed up talks to achieve a bilateral free trade agreement by July.

    Patil in an address on the eve of the celebrations said rampant poverty in India was a concern despite the country's robust economic growth, echoing recent comments from the prime minister.

    “We are witness to the increasing influence of India and its steady economic growth, but there are many significant tasks that are yet to be accomplished, in particular the pledge to empower the poor and the marginalised sections,” she said.

    During the ceremony, India put on display for the first time its Agni-IV missile which can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead to a target some 3,500 kilometres (2,170 miles) away.

    The two-stage Agni-IV, last tested in November 2011 is part of an Indian programme to build an array of weapons including nuclear-tipped inter-continental ballistic missiles.

    The national ceremony later culminated in flypasts by US-built C-130J Super Hercules planes, Russian-supplied Sukhoi-30s, MiG-29 fighter jets, British-made Jaguar bomber aircraft and military helicopters.

    India is upgrading its million-plus military with hardware worth tens of billions of dollars because of its long-standing tensions with regional rivals China and Pakistan.

    Some 25,000 policemen, commandos and soldiers guarded the capital against possible attacks from militant groups while its skies were a no-fly zone for the duration of the celebrations, officials said.

    Last September, 12 people died and nearly 80 others were wounded when a powerful bomb went off at the fortified Delhi High Court in the heart of the Indian capital. Troops were also out in strength on the streets of Indian-administered Kashmir to try to thwart anti-government protests by separatist groups who usually use the occasion to denounce rule by New Delhi.

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