India will be conspicuously absent from the Moscow celebrations to mark the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II on Sunday.
On Sunday Russia will mark the 65th anniversary of victory in World War Two with an unprecedented military parade that will see western troops march for the first time in Red Square.
Military units from WWII allies of Russia — the U.S., Britain and France — have been invited to join Russian troops for the V-Day parade on May 9. Servicemen from nine former Soviet republics will also take part.
Altogether the one-hour parade will see more than 10,000 troops from 20 countries march past the Kremlin and feature several types of defence equipment for the first time, including the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile. A total of 161 tanks and missiles will roll through the Red Square.
The highlight of the parade is a flyover of 127 planes and helicopters, including Tu-160 Blackjacks and Tu-95 Bear nuclear-capable strategic bombers, the world's biggest transport plane, An-124, mid-air refuelling tankers, as well Sukhoi and Mikoyan fighters.
Rehearsals for the parade have been going on for the past week, shutting down traffic in downtown Moscow for several hours every day. Military parades will also be held in 70 other Russian cities, involving a total of about 100,000 troops.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Chinese President Hu Jintao are among 25 foreign leaders set to attend. Many other countries are sending in delegations to Moscow. However, India will be conspicuously absent from the Moscow celebrations in contrast with the 60th V-Day anniversary, attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is true that in 2005 Mr. Singh came at a special invitation of then President Vladimir Putin, whereas this year President Dmitry Medvedev sent out personal invitations only to the leaders of the former Soviet states. However, all other countries were also invited to attend.
The Indian Embassy in Moscow could not say why New Delhi decided not to send any delegation. All that an embassy spokesperson would say was that “the Government of India will not be represented”, in the Moscow festivities.
It may be argued that India was not directly involved in the world's most destructive war. But then, Vietnam was not involved either and Israel did not even exist at the time. Yet, both states will be represented in Moscow. Besides, “several thousand Indian troops also laid down their lives” in WWII, as Mr. Singh recalled on departure to Moscow for the 60th V-Day anniversary five years ago.
In his statement for the press on the occasion, Mr. Singh made it clear that he was going to Russia, not only to commemorate “the immense sacrifices made by Russia and other allied countries in defeating the forces Fascism and Nazism”, but also because “we attach the highest importance to our relations with Russia, which has been a tried and tested friend, and has stood by us in times of need”.
There is no evidence to suggest that New Delhi has since revised either its assessment of Russia's contribution to WWII victory or its view of bilateral relations with Russia. India is still the most trusted strategic partner of Russia, whose arms played a no small role in defending India's independence over the past decades.
Yet, no India official will be present in Red Square on Sunday to mark Russia's most sacred holiday, for which its people paid a horrendous price of almost 27 million lives.