Parrikar overrules US Secret Service objections; Says stringent security, safety measures to be in place to make Obama completely safe
NEW DELHI: India faces confrontation with the United States on what all is allowed at the Republic Day parade as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has overruled objections of the US Secret Service to any kind of air show as part of the function since it cannot allow any risk to President Barack Obama, who will be seated in the open as the chief guest.
Ignoring the demand of the Secret Service to declare the Republic Day celebrations as a no-fly zone, Parrikar has given his nod to a combined air show by the defence forces, after tweaking certain exercises in consultation with the Indian intelligence officials.
The defence ministry sources said several changes in the air show have been made and stringent security and safety measures shall be in place to make Obama completely safe. The US Secret Service is, however, still not satisfied since Obama will be exposed in the open for a long time during the function.
Though Delhi Police always mounts commandoes and snipers on the rooftops of adjoining government buildings on the Republic Day, the US agencies overseeing the R-day preparations are reported to have expressed reservations, saying this was not sufficient.
The defence ministry sources, however, said there should be no risk to Obama, particularly when he will be seated with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and their protection is the topmost responsibility of all in the government.
They said the weapon capabilities of all aircraft and helicopters to be used in the parade have been already neutralised while only those having double engines will be allowed to prevent any mishap. Moreover, the flypast will take place at a greater height of 750-1000 metres and no aircraft will stray towards the VVIP box where Obama, Mukerjee and PM will be seated. Pilots have been told to fly over only along the north-side water channel.
Even the antecedents of the aircrew are being re-checked by ordering verification of their permanent residence proof. Only pilots with Master Green or Green certification have been picked up for the show that includes 33 aircraft -- Sukhoi, Jaguar, Mi-17 and MiG-29K. Only Sukhoi 30 MKI has been allowed to carry out the vertical manoeuvre.
Sources said Sukhoi will be the last to flypast at 900 km per hour and that too over the water channel north of the Rajpath, performing two and a half turns of the "vertical Charlie" manoeuvre.