Manmohan Singh will be first Indian leader to be chief guest at French National Day

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New Delhi, July 13 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, left for the French capital, Paris, today to be the Chief Guest of Honour at France's National Day celebrations on July 14th.

He is the first Indian leader to be bestowed this honour, as France does not have a tradition of inviting foreign heads of state to be chief guests at their Bastille Day or National Day celebrations.

This day commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which was then seen as a symbol of a rising modern nation.

The Prime Minister will also witness the contingent of 400 soldiers from the Indian Army, Navy and Air force march down the Champs-Elysees Avenue along with French infantry troops and motorised troops.

Inviting friendly nations to send their troops to participate the Bastille Day parade is a recent phenomenon.

In 2004, during the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, British troops comprising of Grenadier Guards, the Cavalry Regiment and Royal Marines and Royal Horse Artillery, led the parade in Paris for the first time.

The Indian armed forces participation will mark the commemoration of Indian army's association with its French counterpart during the two World Wars.

The parade itself is a gala event held at what can best be described as the Rajpath of Paris. It begins from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.

The number of contingents participating in the parade are not as many as seen in the Republic Day parade every January 26 in New Delhi. While the loudest applause in Delhi is reserved for the ex-servicemen contingent, at the Bastille Day parade it is the fireservice men who get the loudest applause.

Later on Tuesday,thousands of people will collect at the Champ-de-Mars to watch the fireworks at the Trocadiro.

Not many actually visit the Bastille fortress or what remains of it. On this day though, it is a symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity, key fundamentals of democracies around the world.

Shortly after the storming of the fortress feudalism was abolished in France and the "Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen" were proclaimed.

This inspired the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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