Indian Army soldiers march in formation during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2014 (Agence France-Presse photo)
Just how high the Indian armed forces - the Army, Navy and Air Force - should raise their arms while marching past President Pranab Mukerjee and US President Barack Obama on Republic Day, January 26 has generated a major controversy.
The three forces, like every year, will be putting on display their best marching contingents on Rajpath - the grand boulevard in the heart of New Delhi - for President Mukherjee and President Obama who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
The Navy and Indian Air Force's marching contingents swing their arms above their shoulders and stamp their feet. But for the Army, the arms should only swing up to the shoulders in front and should be
parallel to the waist belt on the swing back. Also, the officer leading the contingent should not stamp his feet at the saluting dais before giving the "eyes right" command.
So contentious is the issue that the Principal Staff Officers (PSO) - the seniormost officers of the three services who act as advisors to the Chiefs of Staff - met at the Ministry of Defence in the last week of December to sort out the matter. The Air Force and Navy were told "marching patterns are different for the three services and they should come in the same grid," a senior Ministry official told NDTV.
Sources say the Army threw the rule book - the Defence Services Regulations, 1961 - which says troops and officers taking part in the parade are not supposed to raise their arms above the shoulder while marching. Exasperated at the refusal of the Navy and the Air Force to comply with the guidelines, the Army is understood to have said that the two forces were marching like "police" and unlike the military.
While the Navy and IAF are understood to have rejected the Army's request for uniformity, a senior official said "swinging the arms above the shoulders may look glamorous but it is not the correct way to do a drill".
As of now, the three forces will be swinging their arms differently as they march past, saluting President Pranab Mukherjee and the visiting US President.