New Delhi: The record-setting presence of 10 heads of state at next week's Republic Day parade in New Delhi has led to massive preparations by 100-odd government agencies. A big challenge for the security establishment will not only be to protect the foreign dignitaries but also to ensure they reach Rajpath - the parade venue - on time as the prime minister would be waiting to receive them.
Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN - Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei - are being hosted by India this year.
The stage that will be enclosed by bullet-proof glass will be 100 feet wide, three times bigger than what it was last year.
"The guests will be staying at Taj Palace, Taj Mansingh, Maurya Sheraton, the Leela Palace and the Oberoi. So we have to match the timings of each leader to ensure there is no overlap," said a senior official. The convoy of each leader will have around nine luxury cars. Drills are being conducted every morning and the drivers are being briefed, he added.
On Republic Day, the foreign guests would go to Rashtrapati Bhavan first from where the cars carrying the heads of state and their spouses will start rolling down the Raisina Hill at 9.35 am. It would take clockwork precision, as there would be a gap of one minute between their arrivals at the podium. As per the protocol worked out, the first to arrive will be the Prime Minister of Brunei and the last to reach will be the Thai king.
"Threat perception is high, that's why we have taken all precautions. Rooftops along the route of the parade have been sanitised and commandos stationed," BK Singh, Additional Commissioner of Police, New Delhi, told NDTV.
Heightened anti-sabotage checks are on, especially after security agencies have been alerted to a possible use of a China-made improvised explosive device by Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad.
No take-offs or landings would be allowed at Indira Gandhi International airport between 10.15 am and 12.35 pm between January 18 and 26.
The foreign leaders will start arriving in the national capital on January 24 for the India-ASEAN commemorative summit that will be held the next day. The event will mark 25 years of India's ties with the southeast Asian bloc.