France burns from rioting, but IAF Rafale jets are readying for July 14 Bastille Day parade, with PM Modi as guest of honour

More than a thousand rioters have been arrested in France and tens of thousands of riot police personnel have been deployed as cities see unabated burning and looting, apparently in demand for “Justice for Nahel M”, the teenager killed in a police shooting. The country is just a fortnight away from Bastille Day, the national day of France celebrated on July 14, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the guest of honour this year. The French-made Rafale fleet of the Indian Air Force is preparing to participate in the Bastille Day parade despite the on-going violence.

A building set on fire in the on-going riots in France. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@ianbremmer
Rafale jets arriving for the Indian Air Force in July 2020. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@IAF_MCC

Nahel, a French-Algerian youth aged 17, was shot dead by a policeman for refusing to stop his car for a police check on June 27, and riots have been raging since then. The teenager was an unlicensed driver and he had a prior record of refusing to stop for such checks, but the shooting has been deemed too extreme by everyone, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

Though he has condemned the police shooting, Macron has described the riots as “unacceptable exploitation of the adolescent’s death”. He also said that parents across France were responsible for their rioting teenagers, who should be kept at home.

The French president postponed his state visit to Germany to deal with the situation. However, even as media reports keep referring to the “deep divide” in French society, there is no indication, yet, that Bastille Day celebrations would be affected. Macron did have to postpone a planned state visit by the recently crowned British monarch, King Charles III, because of violent protests earlier over changes in pension reforms in France. But the July visit by PM Narendra Modi seems on track so far.

Ceremonial flypast on Bastille Day. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@raphaelmetivet

For the French national day parade, which includes a ceremonial flypast over Champs Elysees, Paris, by military aircraft, the Indian Air Force will send three Rafale jets this year, marking India-France bilateral ties. The Indian Army is also expected to take part in the ground parade on Bastille Day.

Speaking to the news outlet WION, Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France in India, said that the visit by Modi (at the invitation of Macron) was “significant” in an “exceptional relationship based on trust”. The envoy said, “We also want to increase existing co-operation; we want more and more people-to-people exchanges because we feel that’s the foundation of it. And we want more students from India [going] to our universities and colleges.”