Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Attends Bastille Day Parade in France

Bastille Day

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honored as a guest at France’s prestigious Bastille Day military parade, showcasing the close ties between the two nations and sealing significant defense deals. The visit of Prime Minister Modi and his presence alongside President Emmanuel Macron in Paris marked a momentous occasion.

Bastille Day: A Grand Display of Military Prowess

On the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Prime Minister Modi and President Macron witnessed a captivating display of French and Indian soldiers marching in unison. The parade was further elevated by the participation of Rafale fighter jets, which India had acquired from France in 2015, as they soared across the sky above the magnificent Arc de Triomphe.

Celebrations Amidst Public Sentiments

The Bastille Day celebrations coincided with a delicate period for President Macron, who faced some booing from members of the public as he drove along the Champs-Elysees in a military vehicle. Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age earlier this year triggered widespread protests and adversely affected his popularity ratings.

Honoring India’s Role in the World

Prime Minister Modi embarked on a two-day visit to Paris, commencing with a momentous occasion—the conferral of France’s highest award, the Legion of Honour. In a speech, President Macron acknowledged India’s significance, stating, “(India) is a giant in the history of the world which will have a determining role in our future. It is also a strategic partner and a friend.”

Bastille Day: Deepening Defense Ties

The parade coincided with India’s recent approval to purchase an additional 26 Rafale jets for its navy, along with three Scorpene class submarines. These defense deals signify the deepening cooperation between India and France, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region where both nations seek to bolster their alliances. The total value of these acquisitions is estimated to be around 800 billion rupees ($9.75 billion), subject to negotiation.

Historical Partnership and Defense Collaboration

France has been a longstanding partner for India in Europe. Notably, it was the only Western nation that refrained from imposing sanctions on India after it conducted nuclear tests in 1998. India has relied on French fighter jets for over four decades, initially with the Mirage jets in the 1980s and now with the Rafale jets. The aging fleet of Russian-made planes, coupled with maintenance issues and delays in indigenous manufacturing plans, prompted India’s pursuit of these new defense agreements.

Discussions and Criticisms

Later in the day, President Macron hosted Prime Minister Modi at the Elysee Palace for bilateral talks, followed by a state banquet at the renowned Louvre Museum. However, Modi’s visit has not been without criticism. Human rights organizations have expressed concerns over the alleged authoritarian tendencies of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as accusations of discrimination against minorities. Such concerns were voiced by the French Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) rights group, which denounced the invitation to Modi, citing India’s perceived democratic values being compromised.

Bastille Day

A Crucial Partnership in the Indo-Pacific

For France, the strategic partnership with India holds immense importance as it seeks to strengthen its alliance network in the Indo-Pacific region. This effort comes in the wake of Australia’s decision to cancel a major submarine contract with France and establish the AUKUS alliance with Britain and the United States. India and France, both through their island territories, have significant interests in the Indian Ocean and share concerns regarding China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

An Exclusive Invitation

President Macron has reserved the invitation to the Bastille Day military parade for only a select few global leaders. In 2017, he extended the honor to former U.S. President Donald Trump, who was so impressed by the French display that he requested the exploration of a similar parade in celebration of American troops.

Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the Bastille Day celebrations solidifies the enduring friendship between India and France, while showcasing the shared commitment to international cooperation and defense collaboration.

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