10 July : Reflecting the closeness in Indo-French ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be the Chief Guest of Honour at France’s National Day on 14th July, becoming the first Indian leader to have such a rare honour.
Dr Singh, who will visit Paris on his way to Sharm-el Shaikh in Egypt for the NAM Summit, has been extended the invitation by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day last year and his invitation to Dr Singh is a gesture of reciprocation.
“This is a symbol of close partnership between the two countries, partnership which is at the service of peace, stability and development,” French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont told a group of reporters in New Delhi.France does not have the custom of inviting foreign heads of governments or states to be the Chief Guest and only on few occasions is this honour bestowed on foreign leaders.
A contingent of 400 soldiers from the three Defence Services of India will also participate in the French National Day Parade to be held on the occasion in Paris. This will mark commemoration of Indian army’s association with its French counterpart during the two World Wars.
At this year’s celebrations, Cambodian President Hun Sen, who will be on a bilateral visit to France, will also be the Guest of Honour along with German President Horst Kochler.
During the visit, Dr Singh and Sarkozy will have ‘working’ lunch discussing ways to meet the bilateral trade target of 12 billion Euros in the face of the global economic crisis.