Prime Minister arrives in Paris

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Paris, July 14 (ANI): Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh arrived in Paris late on Monday night to participate in the National Day celebrations of the Republic of France.

Dr. Singh was received by French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and Ambassador of France to India Bonnafont. He was presented a Guard of Honour by the republican guards. National anthem of both the countries were also played.

Dr. Singh, who will be the Chief Guest of Honour at France's National Day celebrations on Tuesday, said: "It's a great honour and a great privilege for me to be in this beautiful country on France's National Day.

I am very grateful to President Nicolas Sarkozy for giving me this rare honour. India and France are partners in development. We have very good relations with France. Its my ambition to give a further push to our strategic partnership."

The Prime Minister 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.

He will 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.

This is the for the first time that all the three services - Army, Navy and Air Force will taking part in the National Day celebrations of another country.

Among the 400 personnel, 300 would be part of the marching contingent, while the rest are from the respective bands.

A prominent feature of the band contingent will be the drummers and bagpipers who would be playing Indian martial music.

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. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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