Jet deal and masala chai on agenda as Macron arrives in India for Republic Day celebrations

Jet deal and masala chai on agenda as Macron arrives in India for Republic Day celebrations

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French president Emmanuel Macron reached India on Thursday to participate as chief guest in the country’s 26 January Republic Day celebrations.

Mr Macron landed in the western city of Jaipur, nearly 300km (189 miles) from capital Delhi, on Thursday afternoon where he was received by India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar.

The diplomatic visit will be more ceremonial than substantial, and no major announcements are expected, officials in New Delhi and Paris said.

India extended the invite to Mr Macron as the guest of honour for attending the grand 74th Republic Day celebrations in the spacious leafy estate of central Delhi. The French leader is expected to witness rousing military parades, fly-pasts, and marches.

A contingent from French Armed Forces will also be participating in the Republic Day parade, holding a flypast alongside the Indian Air Force.

Mr Macron will be meeting Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in Jaipur on Thursday where the two are expected to visit the city’s historical Amber fort, monuments and an 18th century astronomical observation site.

The two leaders will then go to an 18th century palace and popular tourist destination Hawa Mahal for a special masala chai, reported Indian news channel NDTV. Mr Macron is also expected to attend a private dinner at a private palatial residence-turned-hotel in Jaipur’s Rambagh Palace, the report added. Jaipur is also a key city where one of India’s royal family lives.

After Russia, France is India’s largest arms supplier and a strategic ally in Europe for decades, regarded as one of the oldest and closest. India has been using French fighter jets for more than four decades now, with a landmark but contentious deal of Dassault Aviation Rafale in the past decade.

Previously in the 1980s, India purchased the Mirage jets which are still part of two squadrons of the Indian Air Force.

This is the fifth meeting between Mr Macron and Mr Modi since May last year.

Officials in Paris consider the visit to be an opportunity to solidify its strategic partnership with New Delhi.

However, advisors to the French presidential office said no new contract in the defence sector is expected to come out of this visit.

India is still waiting on developments of a $9.6bn (£7.5bn) worth of deals to buy 26 Rafale jets, and joint production of three Scorpene class submarines.

The Modi administration was previously aiming to invite its Quad ally nations – US president Joe Biden, Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese and Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida.

However, Mr Biden’s unavailability crashed New Delhi’s plans, including a Quad summit planned for this week.

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