PM Modi invited to France for Bastille Day parade

If the PM accepts the French invite, it will add to an already packed diplomatic calendar this summer, as India attempts to walk a tightrope between western countries and Russia on the Ukraine conflict

April 01, 2023 06:52 pm | Updated 07:31 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

France has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Paris as a guest at the annual Bastille Day parade in July, sources confirmed here, but said the visit is still under discussion.

The visit, which would add to Mr. Modi’s already-packed diplomatic calendar, is likely to take place around July 14. The PM and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to discuss a number of major agreements including those on the Indo-Pacificregion, nuclear power and defence, as the two countries mark the 25th year of their strategic partnership. While Mr. Modi has visited France a number of times, including in May 2022, this would be the first time in over a decade that an Indian Prime Minister will attend the annual military parade, since Manmohan Singh was invited as the Bastille Day parade guest in 2009.

Changing plans

The invitation to Mr. Modi comes after Mr. Macron’s inability to travel to Delhi in March, as he was originally expected to, due to a number of domestic issues and scheduling conflicts. Mr. Macron’s plans to visit India in “early 2023” had been announced by the government after a visit by a senior French Minister in October last year.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who attended the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) in Delhi last month, also gave an indication of the upcoming high-level meeting.

‘Greater ambition’

“As we are about to celebrate this year as the 25th anniversary of the strategic partnership between India and France, now is the time to show greater ambition,” Ms. Colonna had said at an event in Delhi, adding that a “quite visible” gesture could be expected. Last week, French media reported that the Elysée Presidential Palace had confirmed the invitation, hinting that a possibly large strategic agreement may also be announced at the time.

The MEA and French Embassy in Delhi both declined to comment on reports about the possible visit.

Diplomatic tightrope

If Mr. Modi accepts the invitation, it would add to an extremely busy international travel schedule over the next few months, as India continues to walk a tough tightrope between the western countries and Russia over the Ukraine conflict. In particular, the government is keen to ensure a smooth summit of G-20 leaders. It would like to forge a consensus over a possible joint statement by then, particularly after the failure to make a breakthrough at two G-20 ministerial meetings including the FMM, where Russia and China refused to accept language from the previous G-20 summit in Indonesia, and France threatened to walk out unless the language was retained.

In May, Mr. Modi will travel to Hiroshima to attend the G-7 outreach at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, following which he will fly to Sydney to attend the Quad summit along with U.S. President Joseph Biden, Mr. Kishida and Australian PM Anthony Albanese. In June, Mr. Modi is likely to travel to the U.S. for a state visit, which will also be the first for an Indian PM since 2009.

Complex relationships

At the end of June, the PM will receive leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and Central Asian leaders. While Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is invited to the SCO summit, slated to be held between June 30 and July 2, it is still unclear whether he will attend in person.

Officials did not confirm whether Mr. Modi’s visit to France in July will be a stand-alone visit, or would entail other neighbouring countries. In August, he is also due to attend the BRICS summit along with Mr. Putin, Mr. Xi and Brazil’s President Lula, hosted by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Durban.

The PM will then host all the leaders of G-20 on September 9 and 10 in Delhi, along with special invitee leaders from nine countries, many of whom he will have met atleast once this year already. At a meeting of G-20 Sherpas in Kerala this week, Russia’s Sherpa Svetlana Lukash said that Mr. Putin was “expected” to attend both the SCO and the G-20 summits, which could make New Delhi’s diplomatic canvas even more complex in the next few months.

(with inputs from Aroon Deep)

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