New Delhi: President Emmanuel Macron was guest of honour Thursday for India’s pomp-filled annual military parade, in a state visit aimed at shoring up France’s strategic ties with the world’s fifth-largest economy.
The annual Republic Day spectacle in the heart of New Delhi on Friday was a highly choreographed spectacle featuring tank columns, fighter jet fly-pasts, acrobatic motorbike stunts and mounted camel units.
This year it coincides with a two-day diplomatic tour that reflects a growing partnership between India and France, after Macron hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at last year’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.
Thousands of people lined a ceremonial boulevard in the heart of the capital to watch a colorful parade showcasing the country’s military power and cultural heritage.
Indian President Draupadi Murmu escorted Macron in a ceremonial British-era horse-drawn carriage from the nearby president’s palace to the viewing stand. It was the first time the carriage has been used at the parade since it was abandoned by the government 40 years ago in favor of an automobile.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a saffron-and-yellow–colored turban representing Hindu nationalist colours, greeted Macron at the viewing stand.
The parade was broadcast live by television networks and watched by millions of Indians across the country.
Tanks, missile systems, infantry combat vehicles and medium-range surface-to-air missile systems were displayed at the parade, with hundreds of police and military personnel marching with them. Stunt performers on motorbikes, including more than 250 women, also joined.
Other participants included a camel-mounted regiment with mustachioed riders led by a shiny brass band.
Floats showcased Hindu Lord Rama, whose temple was inaugurated earlier this week, India’s moon lander, its first indigenous aircraft carrier, a light combat aircraft and helicopter, and a submarine.
Macron accepted India’s invitation at short notice after US President Joe Biden couldn’t make it, reportedly because of his State of the Union address and reelection bid.
A French 30-member band and 90-member marching group joined the parade.
A French transport aircraft and two fighter jets from the French air force joined 54 Indian air force aircraft in a fly-over past the viewing stand.
“A great honor for France. Thank you, India,” Macron said on X, formerly called Twitter.
Rajpath Avenue, built by India’s former British rulers, has been redeveloped as part of the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Indian independence three years ago. It is lined by huge lawns, canals and rows of trees and has been renamed Kartavayapath, or Boulevard of Duty.