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Indian military leads France's national day parade

Video by Marion GAUDIN

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2009-07-14

France celebrated Bastille Day on Tuesday with a grand military parade down the majestic Champs Elysees in Paris joined by a detachment of Indian troops. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the guest of honour this year.

France celebrated Bastille Day Tuesday with a massive military parade down Paris’s majestic Champs Elysee followed by concerts, fireworks and garden parties as the country marks the 1789 storming of the infamous Bastille prison that marked the start of the French Revolution.

The main feature of the day was a huge military parade involving 5,000 men, about 300 military vehicles, 83 motorbikes, 280 horses, 68 planes and 37 helicopters, according to French officials. The parade moved down the Champs Elysees, from the capital’s landmark Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde.


Security is tight across Paris, with nearly 10,000 policemen and gendarmes spread around the city’s landmark sites, including the Eiffel Tower, where French rock hero Johnny Halliday will perform at a public concert later Tuesday.

"A proud day for India"

This year the Indian military marched for the first time on the Champs Elysees, where 400 of its soldiers took part in the march under the watchful eyes of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India, the guest of honour for this year’s parade, sent three battalions.

In uniforms continuing traditions of the former British Empire, they marched to tunes “less militaristic” than those used by the French soldiers.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the guest of honour at the 2008 military parade that commemorated the founding of the Indian republic in New Delhi.

"It is a proud day for India as our troops will march in a country where they fought during World War I," defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar told AFP as the contingent left last week on two Airbus planes sent by France.

Thousands on Indian troops died in Europe in World War 1. Indian soldiers under British command were part of two Allied divisions that fought the Germans around the northern French town of Neuve-Chapelle in 1915.

Close military and economic ties

The decision to invite Indian soldiers underscores the close relations existing between France and India, said French defence ministry spokesman Laurent Teisseire.

France is one of the key arms suppliers for India's technology-hungry military, and the French firm Dassault Aviation is in the race for a mammoth contract to supply 126 fighters to the Indian air force.

France also wants the G8 grouping of rich nations to be expanded to include major emerging economies such as India, the world's biggest democracy.

Among the French contingent, pride of place in the parade has been given to troops recently returned from overseas operations, notably in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and at sea off the pirate-infested Somali coast.

The French military will also be showing off some its new military arsenal, such as the Nexter armoured vehicle and the Caesar cannon, which has a range of 42 kilometres.

Date created : 2009-07-14