France’s Macron tours sites with India’s Modi, views Republic Day show as chief guest

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French President Emmanuel Macron toured historic sites in western India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and is viewing the chief country’s Republic Day celebrations as chief guest.

Modi greeted Macron at an 18th-century observatory in Jaipur and the two stood in an open jeep as they were driven for about 1.5 kilometers (1 mile). Macron waved at the crowds lining the streets that welcomed the leaders with a showering of rose and marigold petals.

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Large cutouts of their images with the inscription “India-France Friendship” dotted the route. Macron also visited a 17th-century fort in the city that is a popular tourist destination.

“His presence not only strengthens the ties between our nations but also adds a significant chapter to our shared history of friendship and collaboration,” Modi said on the X social media platform.

Macron and Modi later held a meeting at a hotel in Jaipur before flying to New Delhi. There was no immediate official statement about the outcome of the meeting, but they were expected to discuss issues like economic, defense, space and cyber security, as well as France’s role in the Indo-Pacific region.

France is looking to strengthen cooperation with India, despite frictions over the two countries’ attitudes toward Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“Macron is committed to the pursuit of a closer dialogue with India, a key player on the international scene from a demographic point of view, as well as economic, scientific and diplomatic,” his office said in a statement on Wednesday.

France has reiterated its commitment to a defense relationship with India, including sharing technology. The two countries are working on co-development and co-production defense projects, the Indian External Affairs Ministry said.

The two leaders were expected to continue discussions on India’s plans to purchase 26 French Rafale fighter aircraft for its navy, approved by India’s Defense Acquisition Council last year. The council also approved a plan to purchase three Scorpene submarines, jointly developed by France and Spain.

France already has delivered 36 Rafale fighter aircraft ordered by the Indian Air Force.

Three ministers are traveling with Macron: Sébastien Lecornu, minister of the armed forces; Stéphane Sejourne, minister for Europe and foreign affairs; and Rachida Dati, the culture minister.

Macron is the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi celebrating the anniversary of the adoption of the country’s constitution in 1950, nearly three years after India won independence from British colonial rule.

Modi was a guest of honor at a Bastille Day parade in Paris in July last year, where Macron called India a key player “in our future.”

Macron visited India in November for the Group of 20 summit of industrialized and developing nations.

Indian exports to France totaled $3.06 billion and imports from France $2.36 billion in the past year, according to India’s External Affairs Ministry.

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