Obama Feted in India At Soggy Parade of Camels, Missiles and Tanks

The president is the first American ever invited as chief guest for Republic Day

It was a symbolic and soggy affair for the first American president given high honors at India's Republic Day parade.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama took in the elaborate pageant of military power and cultural pride from a viewing platform under steady drizzle in the capital New Delhi.

They spent much of the day beneath umbrellas as a colorful display passed before them, including bejeweled camels ridden as cavalry, brigades of arm-swinging troops, cultural dancers, marching bands, and motorcycle stunt men.

The Obamas were flanked by the Indian president and prime minister and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of parade watchers out in the streets to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the world’s biggest democracy.

Prime Minister Narenda Modi, a man who many say is India’s Barack Obama, was sporting a distinctive hat and chatted frequently with his "chief guest."

The military portion of the massive parade featured Russian tanks, American helicopters, mobile rockets and missiles.

One of the tanks turned its presumably unarmed gun turret toward the reviewing stand, likely sending shock waves up the spines of the 50,000 security forces -- US Secret Service, Indian police and para-military forces --guarding Obama. The president overruled security concerns and elected to sit outside in the open for more than two hours -- an unprecedented stretch on foreign soil.

Mr. Obama is the first American President to receive an invitation to be chief guest at the parade, an honor granted to Russia's Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, high-level Pakistani officials, even the Queen of England. That an American was finally invited is considered a symbol of the growing closeness of the Indian and American people.

The budding personal friendship between Obama and Modi has also set a new tone for two countries, each looking for dependable allies in an unsettled region. At a summit Sunday, they announced closer defense ties, expanded trade and an effort to fight climate change.

The three-day Obama visit has set India abuzz with popular fixation with the American first lady, who stepped off the plane in a colorful dress made by a popular Indian designer.

Mr. Obama has seemed enthralled with Indian culture, too, from the high-stepping military review he received, to tea in a picturesque presidential garden, and his solemn visit to the memorial honoring Mahatma Gandhi, a man who famously inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.