Pakistan is planning on reviving its annual military parade this March following a seven year hiatus and may invite Chinese president Xi Jinping as the chief guest amid tensions with neighboring rival India, Pakistani military officials told the Dawn newspaper Monday.
The Republic Day parade — which, like in neighboring India, provides Pakistan the opportunity to strut military hardware from its three armed services — has not been held since 2008 due to persistent terrorism threats and lingering security concerns. Senior Pakistani military officials now say the army, navy and air force will all participate in a parade this year, which will be held on March 23. The exact venue has not been confirmed, but the location will reportedly be in Rawalpindi, where Pakistan Army General Headquarters is situated. A diplomatic source also told Dawn that Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend the parade as chief guest.
The decision comes just a week after U.S. president Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to attend India’s Republic Day parade as chief guest. As The Diplomat reported previously, while Obama was in India, China welcomed Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to Beijing for talks.
The military parade announcement also comes amid renewed tensions between India and Pakistan. Before Obama’s visit, the two nuclear powers had exchanged gunfire across the disputed part of their border in Kashmir, over which they have fought two wars. Some former diplomats had termed the relationship the worst it had been in years. India’s testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Agni-V, on Saturday was also promptly followed by Pakistan’s test of a nuclear-capable cruise missile, the Ra’ad, on Monday.
Dawn suggested that the parade’s revival could also be part of an effort by the Pakistani military to show resolve following a militant attack last December on the Army Public School in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed 145 people, most of them children (see The Diplomat’s coverage here). That attack, one of the deadliest in the country’s history, sparked nationwide outcry and led to calls for a tougher approach against security threats.