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Security Heavy for India Republic Day - 2003-01-26

Security was heavy across India on Sunday for annual Republic Day observances. New and powerful weapon systems were the highlight of the traditional parade in the capitol, New Delhi.

An honor guard snapped to attention as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee began Republic Day observances by placing a wreath at India Gate, the massive memorial to India's war dead that dominates the New Delhi skyline.

At the following parade, all eyes were on India's new Brahmos missile, a powerful weapon with a range of 300 kilometers capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It was the first time the public has seen the missile, which was developed jointly by Russian and Indian scientists. The missile flies at twice the speed of sound and may be deployed next year.

India also showed off its new T-90 tank from Russia, one that is capable of firing laser-guided surface-to-air missiles.

Security was tight in New Delhi. Tens of thousands of security personnel patrolled the streets and, for the first time on Republic Day, all civilian aircraft were banned from flying anywhere near the city. Authorities warned of possible terrorist attacks by Islamic militants, saying terrorists had threatened top Indian political leaders.

Security was also tight in Indian-administered Kashmir, where separatists called for a boycott of Republic Day observances.

Iran's President Mohammed Khatami, who is in New Delhi on an official state visit, viewed the parade with top Indian political leaders. India and Iran are trying to strike a deal to build a gas pipeline between the two countries, but Indian officials say they are concerned about a proposal to run the pipeline through Pakistan.

On Saturday the leaders of the two countries called for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis with the help of the United Nations.