People of Jaipur lined the roads since early morning, holding up posters of French President Emmanuel Macron as he landed on Thursday in the city for his official two-day visit to India. Macron, who is the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi was greeted by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra and the state’s new Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma.
The French president first visited Amer Fort, a UNESCO world heritage site, where he took the time to address French-speaking students from India. He then moved on to Jantar Mantar where he was greeted by Prime Minister Modi. The French leader interacted with traditional artisans along with Prime Minister Modi who presented him a replica of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The two leaders had kulhad (earthen cup) tea at a roadside stall and the payment was made digitally. There was a roadshow as well.
Commenting upon the importance of the visit, the French embassy in India tweeted. “As the year 2024 begins in a context of international tensions and turbulence, this visit will also reaffirm France and India’s commitment to advancing cohesion and avoiding fragmentation of the world by building bridges and common initiatives.” Macron’s visit caps the 25th anniversary celebrations of the India-France Strategic Partnership.
On Friday, Macron will attend the Republic Day celebrations. A 95-member marching contingent and a 33-member band from France will participate in the 75th Republic Day Parade. French Air Force Rafale fighter jets and multirole tanker transport aircraft will take part. He will attend the ‘At Home’ reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan and the State Banquet at the invitation of President Droupadi Murmu.
The visit is expected to consolidate the India-France strategic partnership that was put in motion through the “Horizon 2047 Roadmap” when Prime Minister Modi was invited as the Guest of Honour for France’s Bastille Day in July last year.
The French president’s visit could also give a boost to ongoing talks for a free trade deal between India and the EU. The seventh round of talks will be held from February 19-23 in New Delhi.
New Delhi and Paris may also finalise deals on India procuring 26 Rafale Marine combat aircraft from France as well as on the construction of three submarines in India with the transfer of technology from France. India and France could sign an agreement to set up two new nuclear power plants in the country.