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France celebrates India’s Modi in Bastille Day celebration

France celebrates India’s Modi in Bastille Day celebration

PARIS (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was presented with one of France’s finest awards on Friday as guest of honor at the Bastille Day military parade, part of a visit that sealed high-profile defense deals.

Modi and President Emmanuel Macron watched French and Indian soldiers march down the leafy Champs-Elysees in Paris, while French-made Rafale fighter jets bought by India in 2015 took part in a flight over the Arc de Triomphe.

The national celebrations come at a sensitive time for Macron, who was booed by some members of the public as he drove a military vehicle down the Champs-Elysees.

His decision to raise the retirement age sparked months of protests this spring and hurt his ratings.

Modi began a two-day visit to Paris on Thursday, when he was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honour.

“(India) is a giant in world history and will have a decisive role in our future,” Macron said in a speech late on Thursday. It is also a strategic partner and friend.

The offer comes after New Delhi gave initial approval to buy an additional 26 Rafale jets for its navy and three Scorpene-class submarines, deepening defense ties with Paris at a time when the two countries seek allies in the Indo-Pacific.

The total value of the purchases is expected to be around 800 billion rupees ($9.75 billion), according to a source familiar with the details, though that is still subject to negotiations.

France has been one of India’s closest partners in Europe for decades. It was the only western country that did not impose sanctions on New Delhi after India conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

India has relied on French fighter jets for four decades. Before buying the Rafale from Dassault Aviation, India bought Mirage jets in the 1980s and those planes still field two squadrons of the Air Force.

The aging of Russian-made aircraft in India, Moscow’s inability to perform maintenance work, and delays in plans for domestic manufacturing in India have led to two new defense agreements.

Later on Friday, Macron will host Modi at the Elysee Palace for talks before a state banquet at the Louvre.

But Modi’s visit has also drawn criticism from human rights groups, who are concerned about the increasingly authoritarian nature of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and accusations of discrimination against minorities.

“Today, Emmanuel Macron has rolled out the red carpet for Narendra Modi,” the French human rights group said on Twitter. “The Human Rights League, concerned about the authoritarian transition in India, deplores this call which sends a disastrous signal, denying our democratic values.”

For France, the strategic partnership with India is crucial as it seeks to strengthen its alliance network in the Indo-Pacific region after suffering a blow from Australia when Canberra decided to abandon a large French submarine contract and form an AUKUS alliance with Britain and the United Arab Emirates. United State.

Both India and France, through their island territories, have deep interests in the Indian Ocean and are concerned about China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

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Macron interacted with a few world leaders at the Bastille Day military parade.

Donald Trump called the 2017 festivities, and the then US president was so impressed with the past of the French March that he asked Pentagon officials to explore a similar parade celebrating US troops.

(Reporting by Michelle Rose) Editing by Frances Kerry and Nick McPhee

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