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PM Modi attends Bastille Day Parade as ‘Guest of honour’ as France celebrates a memorable National Day

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron at the annual Bastille Day Parade in Paris on Friday (Image courtesy: MEA)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday attended the annual Bastille Day Parade in Paris as a ‘Guest of Honour’ on French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation.

“A giant in world history, with a decisive role to play in the future, a strategic partner, a friend. We are proud to welcome India as our guest of honour at the 14 July parade,” tweeted Macron as he tweeted a video of him hugging PM Modi at the famed Champs-Elysees avenue.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit also marks the 25th anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership that was established in 1998 and binds the two countries.

PM Modi’s presence in Paris holds special significance as July 14 is France’s National Day dating back to the French Revolution and a moment for the French to celebrate the values of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ which are also in the Preamble to India’s Constitution.

Every Bastille Day, Paris’ famous avenue des Champs-Elysees hosts a military parade which is not very different from the Republic Day parade on Kartavya Path where France has been the guest of honour for five times since 1951.

On Friday, a 269-member tri-services contingent of the Indian Armed Forces marched in unison alongside their French counterparts during the parade.

During the First World War, nearly 140,000 Indian soldiers served in France and Belgium to defend the British Empire and 9,300 of them perished there. There are two memorials in France honouring the Indian soldiers who died during this conflict, at Neuve-Chapelle and Villers Guislain.

A formation of Rafales from the Indian Air Force (IAF) also flew over the Champs-Elysees, reflecting the long association that the two nations share, especially in the field of air power.

Besides its marching contingent, the Indian Navy was represented by INS Chennai, an indigenously built frontline destroyer, that has been deployed to France from July 12–16 to commemorate the Bastille Day celebrations at Brest.

A day after he conferred Prime Minister Modi with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award, Macron called India an essential partner for all the major challenges of the 21st century. He also spotlighted that India, which this year has become the most populous country in the world, could be the world’s third largest economy by 2030.

Both leaders then proceeded for discussions that will focus on major international issues, including the India-French cooperation in the Indo-Pacific where 1.5 million French citizens live and where 93% of French exclusive economic zone are located.