Pranab stresses need to strive for peace by nations
Lands in Moscow ahead of victory day parade
President Pranab Mukherjee landed in Moscow on Thursday, ahead of the massive May 9th victory day parade, to mark the 70th year since the defeat of the Nazi Regime in World War II. He was received at the Moscow airport by the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov. He will be meeting President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.
Speaking to journalists on board his special aircraft Mr. Mukherjee recounted how this was the second time he would represent India at the Vday celebrations, as he had been deputed by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1995 when he was the External Affairs Minister, for the 50th year commemoration. Ironically, while India had not participated in 1995 at the Head of State level, several western countries including the U.S. had attended, with President Bill Clinton leading his delegation.
This time around, the U.S. and President Obama are leading a western boycott of the event in protest of Russia’s actions in the Ukraine last year, and only about 25 heads of government and State including 16 Presidents will attend.
Notwithstanding the absentees, Russia’s 70th year parade is expected to be the grandest yet, with 16,000 soldiers and 200 piece of military equipment, along with 160 aircraft on display and a dramatic entry by the latest Russian defence entrant, the T-14 Armata tanks.
India’s Nine Grenadiers have been participating in the rehearsals and will march alongside the Red Army and China’s PLA in the Red Square.
“I am very happy an Indian military contingent will be part of the Victory Day parade for the very first time. The commemoration also reminds us of the need for all countries to strive actively for peace, for the common benefit of humankind and to never forget lessons of the [World] War,” President Mukherjee said in an interview to Russian Agency ITAR TASS, adding that ”The role of Russian soldiers and civilians changed the course of the war, its outcome and the future of the world. But this was achieved at the cost of tremendous suffering on the part of the Soviet people and the Russian nation…Tens of thousands of Indian soldiers also sacrificed their lives in the war.”
Russia’s Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin returned the praise, saying “Russia also cherishes India’s active role in the last World War and the sympathy of the most illustrious founding fathers and all sons and daughters of this great land showed for the heroic efforts of the former Soviet Union. “
Lashing out at countries in Europe and the U.S. for boycotting the commemoration that they had attended during the 50th and 60th years in 1995 and 2005, Mr. Alexander Kadakin said the boycott showed an “amnesia to the sacrifices and sufferings” of the Russian people.