Indo-French bonhomie: No Rafale, but Modi, Hollande enjoy cultural extravaganza

Indo-French bonhomie: No Rafale, but Modi, Hollande enjoy cultural extravaganza

After a day of discussions on a host of issues of mutual interests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande looked relaxed as they watched the Republic Day parade on the Rajpath on Tuesday and were often seen chatting spiritedly.

Hollande and Modi joined President Pranab Mukherjee to watch the parade. Soldiers of 35th Infantry Regiment of 7th Armoured Brigade of the French Army also joined armed forces of India to march down the Rajpath – marking the first participation of foreign soldiers in the Republic Day celebration of India.

As the tableaux with glimpses of diverse cultural heritage of the nation passed by, Modi was often seen talking to Hollande, apparently explaining the portrayals on the move. Hollande too seemed to have taken keen interests in learning about cultural traditions of India.

Modi and Hollande on Monday led delegations of India and France in a meeting, which was followed by signing of 14 pacts.

An inter-governmental agreement for the purchase of Rafale aircraft was expected to be the most prominent outcome of French President’s visit. But persisting differences over price of the aircraft prevented India and France from signing the agreement, although they noted progress in the negotiations in a memorandum of understanding.

But neither Modi, nor Hollande looked disappointed on Tuesday as they jointly watched the Republic Day parade and met again at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the evening. Hollande landed in Chandigarh on Sunday to commence his three-day visit to India. He became the fifth French President to be the chief guest in the Republic Day ceremony of India.

Mukherjee and Hollande arrived at the Rajpath together on Tuesday. They were received by Modi, who then introduced the French president to the chiefs of the Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force. The French president later had a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He also hosted a private lunch, where Bollywood actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was among the guests.

Hollande also attended the ‘At Home’ hosted by Mukherjee, where he once again met the vice-president, the prime minister and former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

As Hollande left the Rashtrapati Bhavan for airport to fly to Paris, Modi tweeted in French to thank him for his visit. “Merci le Président @fhollande pour votre visite en Inde et nous honorer ainsi avec votre présence aux célébrations du jour de la République. (Thank you President @fhollande for your visit in India and thus honouring us with your presence at the Republic Day celebrations),” the prime minister posted on Twitter.

Noting that India has a special friendship with France, Modi also expressed hope that discussions during the French president’s visit would further deepen bilateral relations.

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