From personalised pillow covers for all ASEAN leaders with their names etched on them to hotel keys with country’s flags, shawls for every ASEAN leader and their spouse, heaters on the main stage on Rajpath, and the timely arrival of all 10 leaders at the parade’s commencement — the government pulled off a massive logistical exercise as it hosted 10 leaders for India-ASEAN commemorative summit.
Describing the frenetic pace of activities, MEA secretary (east) Preeti Saran said, “We were like ducks, seemingly calm on the outside, but swimming furiously underneath the water.”
The ASEAN leaders were staying in five hotels, and to get them “on time”, Chief of Protocol Sanjay Verma told them that about 600 million Indians would be watching the Republic Day parade live on television, and in the past 70 years, the parade has never started late.” That worked, as all the leaders came on time and the parade started at 10 am — with Brunei’s Sultan coming at the end — since he, as the King, outranks all.
Officials said that while the initial plan was to have a marching contingent from ASEAN, the idea was shot down since the marching styles were different. They settled for the ASEAN tableau with a boat, capturing maritime links between India and the ASEAN countries, and a model of Nalanda University.