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Indian forces ready to march down Champs Elysees

Four hundred soldiers from the Indian armed forces will lead the marchpast down historic Champs Elysees later on Tuesday as France celebrates the beginning of its revolution more than 200 years ago with the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789.

world Updated: Jul 14, 2009 12:16 IST
Minu Jain

Four hundred soldiers from the Indian armed forces will lead the marchpast down historic Champs Elysees later on Tuesday as France celebrates the beginning of its revolution more than 200 years ago with the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. And watching the parade will be Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first foreign leader to be accorded the honour.

Comprising the Indian contingents marching down the famed Champs Elysees will be soldiers of the Maratha Light Infantry, one of the oldest and most famous regiments whose history goes back 235 years.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the units of the regiment fought in several campaigns, including China, Burma, Africa and Abyssinia. It also fought during World War I and in World War II.

A million Indian soldiers fought in World War I, including at two places in France, Somme and Givenchy. Around 100,000 Indians died in that war. More than 2.5 million Indians fought on the side of the Allies in World War II, apart from the country providing military bases and feeding a large percentage of Allied soldiers.

More than six decades later, as the Maratha Light Infantry conquers another frontier with thousands of Parisians watching as 93 of its personnel march down, it will be led by Captain Vivek Khanduri.

Also seen will be the Indian Navy and Air Force contingents with their bands. With pipes and drums playing the familiar tunes of "Kadam, kadam badhaye ja" and "Haste Lushai", it will be an evocative moment for India-France ties.

Manmohan Singh landed in Paris on Monday evening for his brief visit and was received by Justice Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie. He will be hosted to a working lunch by French President Nicolas Sarkozy during which the two leaders will discuss the gamut of global and bilateral issues.