French President Emmanuel Macron visits Unesco sites in India ahead of Republic Day

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets French leader day before celebrations

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and France's President Emmanuel Macron wave from atop a vehicle as they at Rambagh Palace at the end of a roadshow in Jaipur on January 25, 2024. AFP
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French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in India’s Jaipur city to a red-carpet reception on Thursday as he began his two-day state visit to the country, where he is the chief guest at the 75th Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

Mr Macron landed in Jaipur, known as the ‘Pink City’ in the western state of Rajasthan, around late afternoon and was received by India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and a welcome parade by elephants.

He spent the day visiting historical monuments including the 16th century Amer Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Mr Macron was greeted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a banquet and a motorcade. He then travelled to New Delhi where he will attend India’s Republic Day celebrations on Friday.

Mr Modi and Mr Macron are seen as having friendly personal relations. The two leaders have reinvigorated France-India ties.

The two countries are “strategic partners”, and the trip will “consolidate and deepen diplomatic and economic relations,” said the French President's office in a statement.

Mr Modi was the chief guest at France’s annual Bastille Day celebrations in July 2023, months before Mr Macron came to New Delhi to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

The whole of the Indian city was decked up with billboards of the two leaders, while around 20,000 schoolchildren lined up along the route to the historic Amer Fort to greet the French President.

He waved at the enthusiastic children who chanted “Welcome, Macron”.

Mr Macron and Mr Modi later took out a motorcade rally, waving from the top of the vehicle at the hundreds of people gathered along the route.

They visited the Alberta Hall Museum, the 18th-century astronomical observation site the Jantar Mantar, and Hawa Mahal Palace, a palace with over 950 windows, also a Unesco World Heritage site.

Military and energy deals

The leaders later had dinner at the Rambagh Palace hotel, where they discussed bilateral and multilateral issues, according to media reports.

They are expected to finalise deals on India procuring 26 Rafale Marine combat aircraft from France as well as outline steps on the construction of three submarines in India, according to media reports.

New Delhi had initiated the $6 billion deal for the acquisition of the aircraft last year.

It has already procured 36 Rafale jets from France for its Air Force.

The leaders are also expected to discuss the ways to speed up the construction of six nuclear power plants in Jaitapur in India’s western state of Maharashtra.

India is building six nuclear power plants of 1,650 Megawatts. It is also proposing the construction of the largest clean energy plant with a total capacity of 9,900MW of electricity, in partnership with France.

The project is stalled due to technical, financial, and civil nuclear liability issues, according to the Indian government.

Republic Day celebrations

Mr Macron will attend the Republic Day parade on Friday morning.

A 95-member contingent from the French Foreign Legion and a 33-member band contingent from France will march down the Kartavya Path – the newly refurbished 3km boulevard connecting the President’s house to the India Gate.

India has a long-standing custom of inviting leaders from other countries to be chief guest for its Republic Day – the day it celebrates the adoption of the constitution in 1950.

Mr Macron is the sixth French leader to attend the event.

He will also visit a popular Muslim shrine in New Delhi before concluding his trip.

Updated: January 25, 2024, 4:41 PM