French President Macron to be Republic Day chief guest, announces MEA | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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French President Macron to be Republic Day chief guest, announces MEA

Dec 22, 2023 07:08 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest at the Bastille Day or French national day celebrations in Paris in July this year

NEW DELHI: India announced on Friday that French President Emmanuel Macron will be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, making him the fifth head of state from France to be accorded the honour.

FILE India has invited French President Emmanuel Macron to be the chief guest at the country's national day celebrations next month, in what Macron's office described on Friday as "a strong moment" for the two nation's ties. (AP)
FILE India has invited French President Emmanuel Macron to be the chief guest at the country's national day celebrations next month, in what Macron's office described on Friday as "a strong moment" for the two nation's ties. (AP)

The development comes soon after the US was unable to accept India’s invitation for President Joe Biden to be the chief guest for the Republic Day. This will also be the sixth time that a French leader will attend the celebrations as chief guest since 1976.

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Macron will visit India as the chief guest for the 75th Republic Day at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

“As strategic partners, India and France share a high degree of convergence on a range of regional and global issues. This year, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership,” the statement said.

Modi was the guest of honour at the Bastille Day or the French National Day parade held in Paris on July 14. An Indian tri-services contingent also participated in the parade. Macron visited India for the G20 Summit in September.

The French presidents who were guests at the Republic Day celebrations are Jacques Chirac (1976 and 1998), Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1980), Nicolas Sarkozy (2008) and François Hollande (2016).

Macron’s presence at next year’s event will make France the country whose leaders have been chief guest at the event the maximum number of times. Till now, France and the UK were tied with five invitations each.

The Indian side was put in the uncomfortable position of having to look for a world leader to be the chief guest for the Republic Day with a little more than six weeks to go for the event after the US didn’t take up the invitation, reportedly due to Biden’s focus on domestic politics, including the annual State of the Union address and his re-election bid in 2024.

There was speculation in diplomatic circles about the Indian side considering other world leaders in recent days, with the names of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the heads of state of some West Asian countries doing the rounds.

The development also comes at a time when France has reportedly submitted its bid to India’s defence ministry for selling 26 Rafale-Marine combat jets in a deal estimated to be worth 50,000 crore. These jets are meant to bolster the Indian Navy’s combat capabilities, and the Indian Air Force already operates 36 Rafale jets acquired under a 59,000-crore deal finalised in 2016.

Macron has a close relationship with Modi and France has emerged as one of India’s closest partners in Europe. Both countries are part of trilateral partnerships with several countries that are focused on cooperation in areas such as maritime security and resilient supply chains.

France is the only European power with significant naval assets in the Indian Ocean region because 93% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of more than 11 million sq km is in the Indo-Pacific. The navies of India and France exercise regularly and cooperate closely on maritime security.

The two countries have also worked closely together on issues such as counter-terrorism and climate change at the United Nations.

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