( dpa ) - India showcased its military might and diverse cultural heritage in the capital on Saturday as the country celebrated its 59th Republic Day with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as the guest of honour.
The French leader joined India's first woman president, Pratibha Patil, who took the salute as the parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace amidst tight security arrangements.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President Hamid Ansari and a number of dignitaries and diplomats along with the chiefs of the Indian armed forces were also present at the parade, the main attraction of the national celebrations.
Singh had held wide-ranging talks with Sarkozy on Friday to give a "fresh impetus" to the strategic partnership between the two countries.
Soon after the talks, India and France announced that they had concluded negotiations on a civilian nuclear deal and inked five pacts in areas of defence, science and nuclear research.
Colourful tableaux depicting the diverse culture from Indian states and performances by folk dancers and school children followed a march-past by Indian military personnel at the parade.
The defence forces showcased their latest military armament and put up a show of airpower as the frontline Sukhoi-30 combat jets zipped across Delhi skies.
On display during the parade were the indigenous T-90 battle tanks, BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles developed jointly with Russia and the nuclear-capable Agni missiles.
Upgraded 155 mm artillery guns, along with Dhanush missiles and the long-range Smerch rocket system were also displayed.
A large number of enthusiastic people from Delhi and neighbouring areas also came to witness the parade that culminated at the 17th century Mughal monument of Red Fort.
In a speech ahead of Republic Day, Patil said that although India was recording high growth, the benefits were not percolating to the economically-weaker sections.
The Indian President called for strong measures to remove corruption and action to combat terrorism.
India celebrates January 26 every year as Republic Day to commemorate the day it adopted its constitution in 1950. The day is marked by flag hoisting ceremonies, military parades and cultural pageants across the country.
Authorities put in place massive ground-to-air security apparatus in the Indian capital following warnings by security agencies about possible strikes by terrorists.
Other Indian cities and towns particularly those in insurgency-hit northern Jammu and Kashmir state and the north-east were also on high-alert and carried out the celebrations under heavy security.
Meanwhile, Indian officials said Sarkozy was due to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, located more than 200 kilometres south of New Delhi.
There was, however, no word whether Sarkozy's girlfriend pop-singer Carla Bruni would accompany him to the world-famous monument to love.
Although Sarkozy flew into Delhi on Friday on a two-day visit without Bruni, the Indian press speculated that she might reach India on a private visit and accompany him to the Taj Mahal.
The French president is scheduled to conclude his India tour after he attends a reception hosted by President Patil and meets with members of the French community later on Saturday.