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French President Macron arrives in India, where he’ll be chief guest at National Day celebrations

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in India on Thursday, where he is set to be the chief guest at the country’s Republic Day celebrations, with a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Macron commenced his visit with a tour of some prominent sites in the western city of Jaipur, a renowned tourist destination, exploring the 17th-century fort and 18th-century observatory.

Later on Thursday, Macron will engage in discussions with Prime Minister Modi in Jaipur before boarding a flight for New Delhi. It is anticipated that the leaders will discuss vital global issues related to Indo-Pacific, cyber security, space, defense, and economy, alongside France’s position on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, despite differences on the invasion.

Political Agenda and Macron’s Trip to India

Despite discrepancies on the Russia-Ukraine invasion, France seeks to expand its partnership with India in various sectors, including military sales and climate change. Macron is expected to continue talks on India’s plans approved last year by the Defense Acquisition Council to acquire 26 French Rafale fighter jets for its navy. The Council also approved the purchase of three Scorpene submarines, developed jointly by France and Spain.

India has already received deliveries of the 36 Rafale fighter jets it ordered from France, and both nations are working together on defense projects, including technology transfer. The diplomatic offices of both countries stated that they are collaborating on defense initiatives related to co-production and co-development.

Defense Collaboration and Strategic Partnership

Macron’s office released a statement saying, “Macron is committed to close dialogue with India, a key player on the international stage from demographic, economic, scientific, and geopolitical perspectives.” Accompanying the president are three ministers: Culture Minister Rachida Dati, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Stéphane Séjourné, and Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu.

After gaining independence from British colonial rule about three years after the United Kingdom granted British India, India celebrated the passage of its constitution in 1950. This Friday, Macron will be honored as a distinguished guest at India’s 74th Republic Day parade in the grand, lush setting of central Delhi. The visit is expected to strengthen diplomatic ties and may not involve any major policy announcements.

Republic Day Program and Role of the Distinguished Guest

In November, Macron visited India for the Group of Twenty (G20) summit. According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, last year France had a trade surplus of $3.06 billion, with exports from France amounting to $3.06 billion, while imports from France were $2.36 billion. Macron’s visit is considered more of a formality than a substantive diplomatic engagement, and no significant announcements are expected. India has invited President Macron as a distinguished guest to participate in the grand 74th Republic Day celebration in the monumental and verdant Mid-Delhi. It is anticipated that the French President will witness the enthusiastic fly-past, march, and parade featuring both the Indian Air Force and a contingent of French armed forces during the Republic Day parade.

Exploring Jaipur and Hosting Meetings

On Thursday, President Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are set to meet in Jaipur, where they will likely inspect the city’s famous Amber Fort, along with a visit to an observatory showcasing celestial observations from the 18th century. According to Indian news station NDTV, following this, the leaders will explore the popular tourist attraction of the City Palace and the 18th-century Hawa Mahal, possibly concluding their visit with a special evening tea.

Sources suggest that President Macron might also attend a private dinner at the Rambagh Palace, a converted hotel, near Jaipur. Jaipur holds historical significance as the home of a member of India’s royal dynasty.

Historical Military Collaboration and Defense Dealings

After Russia, France stands as India’s second-largest arms supplier and has been one of the closest and oldest strategic partners in Europe for many years. India has been using French fighter planes for almost 40 years, and discussions in the past decade include an historic yet controversial deal for the purchase of Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets.

The Indian Air Force still operates two squadrons of Mirage aircraft purchased in the 1980s. President Macron and PM Modi have met five times since May last year. Paris officials view this trip as an opportunity to strengthen their strategic alliance with New Delhi.

Day Plans and Official Trip Details

However, advisers from the French presidential office have indicated that they do not expect any new defense-related agreements from this visit. India is currently awaiting the outcome of a $9.6 billion deal for the purchase of 26 Rafale aircraft and joint production of three Scorpene-class submarines.

Previously, the Modi administration had planned to host the Prime Ministers of Japan, Australia, and the United States, namely Biden, Anthony Albanese, and Fumio Kishida. However, President Biden’s absence led to the cancellation of this week’s Quad summit in New Delhi.

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