Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become the first Indian Prime Minister to have been conferred with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, France's highest civilian and military honour, by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Mr. Modi received the honour at the Elysee Palace here on Thursday, July 13, 2023, and joined the ranks of other prominent world leaders such as the former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela, King Charles - the then Prince of Wales, former Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary General of the United Nations, among others.
The Prime Minister, who is in France for a two-day official visit, was accorded a red-carpet welcome as he arrived here on Thursday. He will join President Macron for the French National Day celebrations on Friday as the Guest of Honour.
“A warm gesture embodying the spirit of partnership. PM @narendramodi conferred with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, the highest award in France by President @EmmanuelMacron," Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.
"Prime Minister thanked President Macron for this singular honour on behalf of the people of India,” the MEA said in a statement.
The Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour given by France is another in a series of top international awards and honours bestowed by various countries on Prime Minister Modi.
These include Order of the Nile by Egypt in June 2023, Companion of the Order of Logohu by Papua New Guinea in May 2023, Companion of the Order of Fiji in May 2023, Ebakl Award by the Republic of Palau in May 2023, Order of the Druk Gyalpo by Bhutan in 2021, Legion of Merit by the US Government in 2020, King Hamad Order of the Renaissance by Bahrain in 2019, Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddin by Maldives in 2019.
Mr. Modi received the Order of St. Andrew Award from Russia in 2019, and the Order of Zayed Award from the UAE in 2019. He also received the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine Award in 2018, the State Order of Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan from Afghanistan in 2016 and the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud from Saudia Arabia in 2016.
Established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, The Legion of Honour is divided into five classes (lower to higher). The colour of the ribbon is red and the badge is a five-armed Maltese asterisk hung on an oak and laurel wreath.
Although the membership to the award is restricted to French nationals, foreign nationals who serve France or uphold its ideals may also be given a distinction of the Legion.
Earlier, the French President and First Lady Brigitte Macron hosted a private dinner for Mr. Modi at the Elysee Palace.
On Thursday evening, Mr. Modi addressed the Indian diaspora here and announced an agreement for the use of UPI in France, opening a huge new market for Indian innovation in cashless instant payment.
In his nearly hour-long speech to the enthusiastic crowd at the La Seine Musicale -- a performing arts centre on an island in the river Seine - Mr. Modi outlined India's fast-paced development and asserted that while the world is moving towards a new order, India's strength and role is also changing very quickly.
Mr. Modi announced the opening of a new Indian consulate in Marseille in France and told the cheerful audience that Indian students doing masters in the European country will now get five-year-long post-study work visas.
Noting that France is celebrating its national day, in which he is the guest of honour, Mr. Modi said he had been to the country many times but it was special this time, as he lauded its support to India and the strength of ties between the two countries, which mark 25th anniversary of their strategic partnership.
Describing people-to-people connect as a key foundation of the India-France partnership, he also asked the diaspora members to invest in India, noting that global experts are recognising the country's attractiveness as an investment destination and the country is taking rapid strides in development.