PM Modi to join President Emmanuel Macron for French National Day celebrations

Paris: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in France for a two-day official visit, will join President Emmanuel Macron for the French National Day celebrations as the Guest of Honour here on Friday.

The French National Day, or Bastille Day, occupies a special place in the French consciousness as it commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution in 1789. The Bastille Day parade is the highlight of the celebrations.

A 269-member Indian tri-services contingent will participate in the parade. Three Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will also join the flypast on the occasion along with French jets.

On Friday, Modi will grace the Bastille Day Parade, meet the president of the French National Assembly Yael Braun-Pivet and will attend a series of interactions with thought leaders and businesspeople.

According to official sources, Modi’s visit coincides with the 25th anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership.

They said it is uncommon for foreign leaders to be invited as guests of honour on the Bastille Day and the last time it was done was in 2017 when former US president Donald Trump was invited.

“Even rarer is having foreign marching contingents and foreign aircraft participate in it,” an official said.

There will be a ceremonial reception for Modi at the Elysee Palace and it will be followed by delegation-level talks between Modi and Macron.

The two leaders will also participate in the India-France CEO Forum. Later in the evening, Macron will host a banquet for Modi at the iconic Louvre Museum complex in Paris.

At a media briefing in New Delhi on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said the prime minister’s visit to France would be rich in “substance” and set a “new benchmark” for strategic partnership between the two countries in years ahead.

He said Modi and Macron will review cooperation under key pillars of the strategic partnership including security, civil nuclear technology, counter-terrorism, cyber security, space, climate change and integration of supply chains of the two countries.

The foreign secretary said that the two leaders are expected to explore new areas of cooperation in the space sector.

Expansion of bilateral defence ties is expected to be a key focus of Prime Minister Modi’s two-day visit to Paris with groundwork being finalised for New Delhi’s procurement of 26 naval variants of Rafale jets from France, besides firming up a big-ticket deal to jointly develop an aircraft engine in India.

While declining to comment on specific outcomes in the spheres of defence in the Modi-Macron talks, Kwatra said ways to move the engagement towards “co-production, co-development and co-design” of military hardware and linking it to India’s priorities for self-reliance is expected to be part of the discussions.

On the 1650 MW nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra, he said both sides are engaged in intense discussions to resolve all issues including those relating to civil nuclear liability, cost and techno-commercial matters.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to give a go-ahead to the major defence deals that are expected to be announced during Modi’s visit.

In a press statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday that Modi’s visit to France will provide an opportunity to chart the course of the partnership for the future across diverse sectors such as strategic, cultural, scientific, academic and economic cooperation.

On defence cooperation, the sources said both sides are looking at expanding it further.

India has already procured 36 Rafale jets from France for the IAF. Another important project with France is likely to be a follow-on order of three Scorpene submarines which are set to be manufactured in India.

Under Project 75, six Scorpene submarines have already been made in India.

The French side and its partner Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) are now looking at the additional order of three more Scorpene submarines. The defence ministry is in talks with French defence major Safran for joint development of a fighter jet engine in India to power the country’s next-generation aircraft including the futuristic Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Modi will visit Abu Dhabi on July 15 and hold wide-ranging talks with the President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to take forward bilateral ties in areas of energy, food security, fintech and defence.