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President Barack Obama on Monday took in a grand display of Indian military hardware, marching bands and elaborately dressed camels, becoming the first American leader to be honored as chief guest at India's annual Republic Day festivities.

The crowd erupted in cheers as Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, emerged from his armored limousine and took his place on the rain-soaked parade route in the capital of New Delhi. The parade was the centerpiece of Obama's three-day visit to India, which is aimed at strengthening the relationship between the world's largest democracies that has at times been fraught with tension and suspicion.

Obama's attendance at the Republic Day celebrations was unlike any other event he has participated in during his overseas travel as president. He spent about two hours on an outdoor viewing platform, an unusual amount of time given Secret Service security concerns. Obama nodded in approval as Indian tanks and rocket launchers, some of them Russian-made, rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.

The Associated Press

Image: India's BSF "Daredevils" motorcycle riders perform stunts as they take part during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
India's Border Security Force (BSF) "Daredevils" motorcycle riders perform in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan. 26.AHMAD MASOOD / Reuters
Indian military personnel salute while riding camels during the nation's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on Jan. 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as President Obama became the first U.S. president to attend the military and cultural display.SAUL LOEB / AFP - Getty Images
Indian Army soldiers march in formation down the ceremonial boulevard Rajpath during the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan. 26.PRAKASH SINGH / AFP - Getty Images