India-France bromance: Macron as R-Day guest underlines long friendship

The trade between both the nations is at an all time high

India France R-Day guest (File) President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Prime Minister Narendra Modi before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris | Reuters

Forty eight years ago, Prime Minister Jacques Chirac came as chief guest at a Republic Day event. A Sanskrit scholar who believed in deeper ties with India—Chirac was the first French leader to watch India’s parade. In 2024, as French President Macron comes to India next week and he will be the sixth French leader to be the guest of honour. This makes France the country that has been invited and accepted the most number of times for this honour to stand at a grand total of six.

Forget the bromance—that President Joe Biden may have met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially at a time when it was widely known that he was to watch the parade at the Kartavya Path—it is about diplomatic armour. If Macron accepted the invitation without hesitation, as sources say, Modi attended as the guest of honour at Bastille Day on 14 July 2023.

“France is amongst the closest strategic partners,’’ said sources. “If you look at the multilateral forums like the UN, France has supported what India has done.”

A 200 member Indian tri-service contingent marched to the tune of 'saare jahan se achcha' down towards the Arc de Triomphe. India is planning to return the favour with two Rafale fighter jets and one transport aircraft to participate in the fly-past. There will also be a marching contingent of the French Foreign Legion that will take part in the programme.

In the past six months, Macron has met Modi four times. From Paris to Delhi to Dubai and once virtually. Unlike the other relationships that often steal the limelight, the flirtation between the two countries has blossomed into a steady long term relationship. The two countries have signed pacts in Defence—the military relationship is bedrock—but then there are the other ingredients that keep the relationship exciting—from space, to the newly signed pact on the Indo-Pacific and the Horizon 2047. This pact stands on three pillars—progress, planet and people.

Macron is expected to come with CEOs—especially at a time when the trade between the two countries is at an all time high with 13.5 billion dollars last year. India is hoping that the new areas of digital, post France inking a deal for the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which was launched from the Eiffel Tower last September. On the cards will be India pushing green energy, and a blue economy. “There has been a positive movement on the Rafale deal,’’ said sources.

There is expected to be movement in all the three pillars, but it is the people's connection that is likely to explode. And there is likely to be an announcement on education. And nothing fires up the relationship as young blood.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp