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Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

India warmly embraced President Emmanuel Macron in a red carpet reception, highlighted by a majestic welcome parade of elephants.

As France strategically targets lucrative deals with the world’s fifth-largest economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to host Macron for a banquet in a 19th-century maharaja’s palace, followed by a colorful military march-past featuring tanks, camel cavalry, and a fighter jet fly-past.

Emphasizing the strategic partnership between New Delhi and Paris, India’s foreign ministry states, and the French presidency echoes, that the visit aims to “consolidate and deepen diplomatic and economic relations.” Despite concerns over human rights, differences over the Ukraine conflict, and India’s ties with Moscow, Western democracies, particularly the United States and European allies, are actively engaging with India as a military and economic counterbalance to China.

France seeks to expand its military contracts with India, building on the significant purchases of French-made Rafale fighter jets and Scorpene-class submarines in multibillion-dollar deals by the Indian defense ministry. Macron, arriving after an invitation to US President Joe Biden reportedly went unanswered, also aims to promote the sale of six EPR nuclear reactors.

During his arrival in Jaipur, Macron, adorned with a red flower garland, expressed a desire for increased educational exchanges, stating, “We want to have more Indian students in France.” The French president’s visit includes collaborations on space and satellite technology, symbolized by the presence of astronaut Thomas Pesquet in the French delegation.

The visit incorporates cultural elements, with stops at historical sites like Jaipur’s 18th-century Jantar Mantar astronomical observation site. Macron is scheduled to witness the Republic Day military parade in New Delhi, marking the 75th anniversary of India’s constitution, where French-built jets will join the spectacle.

As discussions unfold on issues such as international peace and security, the French president and Prime Minister Modi will also address rights concerns. Topics encompass harassment faced by journalists, activists, and religious minorities, reflecting on accusations of rising religious intolerance towards India’s Muslim minority. The visit coincides with recent events, including the opening of a Hindu temple on the grounds where a mosque once stood and the potential expulsion of a French journalist for critical reporting.

Amidst discussions, a French presidential adviser emphasized that there are “no taboo subjects,” highlighting the commitment to address sensitive issues with respect and the goal of achieving tangible results. The visit underscores the evolving dynamics of India-France relations, blending diplomatic, economic, and cultural elements in a nuanced exchange.

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