‘Dear Narendra…’, ‘My friend Macron…’: Bastille Day 2023 invite for Modi reflects growing India-France ties

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron to attend Bastille Day 2023 on July 14 as the Guest of Honour.

President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@EmmanuelMacron

This is the first time in 14 years that the Prime Minister of India has been invited in this capacity to this event, which marks the storming of Bastille prison in 1789 and the start of the French Revolution. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had attended Bastille Day, aka the National Day of France, in 2009 as the Guest of Honour.

Apart from extending the invite, Macron also posted on Twitter in French, starting with “Cher Narendra (Dear Narendra)…” Modi accepted with thanks, saying: “Thank you my friend @EmmanuelMacron! I look forward to celebrating Bastille Day and our Strategic Partnership with you and the French people.”

This deepening of connection comes against the backdrop of increasing India-France trade. It was reported in December 2021 that bilateral trade had seen a steady rise in volume over the past decade. In February 2023, news was out that Air India, reacquired by the Tata Group in January 2022, was committed to ordering 250 aircraft from Airbus Industrie of France; it was part of a move to buy 470 new planes, with the rest coming from Boeing.

An Airbus press release said: “The Tata Group-owned Air India has announced its commitment to order 250 Airbus aircraft to boost its domestic and international operations. The commitment includes 140 A320neo and 70 A321neo single-aisle aircraft as well as 34 A350-1000 and six A350-900 wide-body jets that will mark a new era for the country as the all-new, long-range aircraft celebrates its debut in the Indian market.”

India-France defence deals include the 2015 order placed for a fleet of Rafale fighter jets made by Dassault, the French aerospace company. Though the deal became politically controversial, the last of the 36 Rafale jets landed in India in mid-December 2022, and a happy Indian Air Force tweeted: “Feet dry, pack is complete.”

Reporting in late April this year on the expected Bastille Day 2023 invite from Macron to Modi, the business news agency Bloomberg reported that the “invitation reflects booming business and military bilateral ties as well as India’s strategic importance as the world’s most populated country and the current leader of the Group of 20 nations….”

Bastille Day 2023