Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a grand reception in France as the guest of honor at the Bastille Day military parade. The visit also resulted in significant defense deals between the two countries.
Modi and President Emmanuel Macron observed French and Indian soldiers marching down the beautiful Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris. To add to the spectacle, the French-made Rafale fighter jets, which India purchased in 2015, participated in a fly-past over the iconic Arc de Triomphe.
The timing of the national celebrations is sensitive for Macron, as he faced boos from some members of the public while driving down the Champs-Elysees in a military car. His decision to raise the retirement age sparked months of protests earlier this year and impacted his popularity.
Modi’s two-day visit to Paris commenced on Thursday when he was bestowed with the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award. Macron, in a speech, expressed his admiration for India, stating that it is a significant player in world history and will continue to play a decisive role in the future. He emphasized that India is not only a strategic partner but also a friend to France.
The parade coincided with New Delhi’s initial approval to acquire 26 additional Rafale jets for its navy and three Scorpene class submarines, thereby strengthening defense ties between the two nations. The procurement’s total value is estimated to be around 800 billion rupees ($9.75 billion), although negotiations are still ongoing.
France has been a steadfast partner of India in Europe for many decades. Notably, France refrained from imposing sanctions on India after it conducted nuclear tests in 1998, making it the only Western nation to do so.
India has been relying on French fighter jets for over 40 years. Prior to acquiring Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, India purchased Mirage jets in the 1980s, and two squadrons of the air force still operate them. The aging fleet of Russian-made planes, coupled with maintenance challenges and delays in indigenous manufacturing plans, led to these recent defense deals.
Later in the day, Macron will host Modi at the Elysee Palace for discussions, followed by a state banquet at the Louvre Museum.
However, Modi’s visit has drawn criticism from human rights organizations, which express concerns about the perceived authoritarian nature of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and allegations of discrimination against minorities.
“While Emmanuel Macron rolls out the red carpet for Narendra Modi, the LDH (French League for Human Rights), concerned about India’s turn toward authoritarianism, denounces this invitation, which sends a disastrous signal, contradicting our democratic values,” stated the LDH rights group on Twitter.
For France, the strategic partnership with India is of utmost importance as it seeks to strengthen its alliance network in the Indo-Pacific region. This objective became particularly crucial after Australia terminated a major French submarine contract and formed the AUKUS alliance with Britain and the United States.
Both India and France, through their respective island territories, have deep interests in the Indian Ocean and share concerns about China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.
Macron has reserved the Bastille Day military parade for only a select few global leaders. In 2017, he invited Donald Trump, and the former U.S. president was so impressed by the French march-past that he asked Pentagon officials to explore a similar parade to honor American troops.
Macron and Trump’s encounter during the Bastille Day parade left a lasting impression on the former U.S. president. He was so inspired by the French spectacle that he directed Pentagon officials to explore the possibility of organizing a similar parade to celebrate American troops.
The visit of Prime Minister Modi holds immense significance for both India and France, particularly in the context of the Indo-Pacific region. France is determined to solidify its alliance network in the area, while India seeks to strengthen its defense capabilities and counter China’s growing influence.
While the Bastille Day celebration and defense deals between India and France are cause for celebration, Modi’s visit has not been without controversy. Human rights organizations have voiced concerns about the alleged authoritarian tendencies of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the discrimination faced by minorities in India. The French League for Human Rights, known as the LDH, expressed its dismay at Macron’s warm reception of Modi, stating that it contradicts democratic values.
Nevertheless, the strategic partnership between France and India remains a top priority for both nations. The visit has further solidified their ties and highlighted the importance of collaboration in defense and other critical areas.
As the day continues, Macron will host Modi at the esteemed Elysee Palace for bilateral discussions. The leaders will have the opportunity to engage in productive dialogue and explore avenues for enhanced cooperation. The day will culminate in a grand state banquet at the renowned Louvre Museum, adding a touch of cultural splendor to the visit.
The Bastille Day celebration and Modi’s visit serve as a testament to the strong diplomatic relations between France and India. The shared interests and values of the two nations have fostered a deep bond that extends beyond the political and economic realms. The collaborative efforts in defense, as demonstrated by the purchase of Rafale jets and submarines, illustrate the trust and confidence both countries have in each other.
As the world witnesses this momentous occasion, it is a reminder of the importance of international partnerships and the potential for collective progress. The Bastille Day parade not only showcases the military might of France but also serves as a symbol of unity among nations. It is an opportunity for leaders to come together, reaffirm their commitments, and build bridges for a better future.
The visit of Prime Minister Modi as the guest of honor at the Bastille Day celebration will undoubtedly be remembered as a significant milestone in the bilateral relations between France and India. It has strengthened the foundation of their partnership and opened doors for further collaboration, paving the way for a brighter and more secure future for both nations.
As the sun sets on this memorable day, the world eagerly anticipates the outcomes of the discussions and agreements reached during Modi’s visit. The bond between France and India, rooted in shared values and aspirations, continues to grow stronger, setting an example for cooperation and friendship on the global stage.