A 70-member marching contingent of the Grenadiers Regiment from the Indian Army will take part in 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade at Red Square on 9 May, Ministry of Defence has announced. Raised in November 1779, the Grenadiers Regiment has won six Victoria Crosses before 1947, and three Param Vir Chakras since India’s independence.
This will be the first time an Indian military contingent will be participating in the Moscow Victory Day celebrations. This year’s parade marks the 70th anniversary of the day of Nazi Germany’s surrender to the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1945.
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Historian Srinath Raghavan, author of a forthcoming book on India and the Second World War, notes that “the only time Indian Army and Red Army would have come together during the Second World War was in the occupation of Iran in 1941.”
The first Victory Day celebrations in Moscow were held in 1945 but apart from the 20th and 40th anniversaries in 1965 and 1985, Victory Day celebrations in the Soviet Union did not feature a military parade. This tradition of an annual military parade at Red Square started in 1995. The 2010 Victory Day marked the first time that foreign soldiers joined Russian forces on Red Square for the parade. Among other countries, troops from the US, the UK, France, Canada and Poland had participated in the parade in 2010.
With more than 26 international leaders likely to attend, the 2015 Victory Day Parade is expected to be one of the biggest to be held in Russian history. As per Russian news agency TASS, President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, will also take part in the Moscow celebrations. Because of the recent annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia, none of the Western leaders who attended in 2010 is expected to attend this year’s parade. German President Angela Merkel is however scheduled to visit Moscow on 10 May, a day after the Victory Day parade.
It is only in recent years that India has started sending its military contingent to foreign parades. During the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Second World War in Hawai in 1995, Indian government refused to participate as it didn’t wish to be associated with Churchill’s war. To represent the Indian soldiers, Pakistan, which didn’t even exist in 1945, was invited and honoured for its role in Japan’s defeat at the commemoration ceremony.
In 2009, a contingent from the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment had marched down Champs Elysees during the Bastille Day celebrations in France.
But Indian military contingents participating in celebration parades have had a chequered history even in the pre-independence era. An Indian army contingent was supposed to participate in a Victory Parade in London on 19 July 1919 to celebrate the end of the First World War but the 1,800-strong contingent could not make it due to an outbreak of influenza on board ship on their way to England. It, instead, paraded on 2 August 1919 and marched up Whitehall en route from Waterloo to Buckingham Palace.