In a first, the Prime Minister will pay homage to fallen soldiers at the newly-built National War Memorial in New Delhi on the Republic Day instead of Amar Jawan Jyoti beneath the India Gate arch, officials said.
The iconic memorial in the India Gate complex behind the canopy was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 25 last year.
Amar Jawan Jyoti is symbolised by an inverted bayonet and soldier’s helmet over it with an eternal flame burning beside it. It was built in 1972 underneath the India Gate arch to commemorate soldiers martyred in the Indo-Pak War of 1971.
Tri-Services chiefs pay respect on occasions of national importance like Independence Day, Republic Day at the Amar Jawan Jyoti.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the National War Memorial on January 26 morning before the commencement of the Republic Day Parade, and lay a wreath at the memorial in the presence of the three services chiefs and the Chief of the Defence Staff,” a senior official of the Army said.
Army Chief Gen M M Naravane, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, all three of them, had assumed charge as service heads last year.
“Only the PM will lay the wreath at the National War Memorial,” the official said.
This will also be the first time, a Chief of the Defence Staff, will take part in the Republic Day celebrations, he said.
Former Army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat on January 1 had taken charge as the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff whose mandate will be to bring in convergence in functioning of the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force.
Spread over an area of approximately 40 acres, National War Memorial comprises four concentric circles, namely — the ‘Amar Chakra’, ‘Veerta Chakra’, ‘Tyag Chakra’ and the ‘Rakshak Chakra’ with names of 25,942 soldiers inscribed in golden letters on granite tablets.
It also includes a central 15.5-m obelisk, an eternal flame and six bronze murals depicting famous battles fought by the Indian Army, Air Force and the Navy in a covered gallery (Veerta Chakra).
The memorial is dedicated to soldiers killed during the Indo-China War in 1962, Indo-Pak Wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971, Indian Peace Keeping Force Operations in Sri Lanka and in the Kargil Conflict in 1999, and also those in the UN peacekeeping missions.
The 42 m-high India Gate was built during the British Raj as the All India War Memorial Arch to honour the soldiers who died in the First World War (1914-1918) and the Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919). The landmark has the names of soldiers inscribed on its surface.
“Over 80,000 Indian laid their lives in those campaigns and India Gate bears names of 13,516 etched over its surface. Amar Jawan Jyoti was built to commemorate India’s victory in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. So, both flames will have their own importance,” a senior Army official had said ahead of the inauguration of the National War Memorial.