PM to be Chief Guest at French National Day on Tuesday

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday left for Paris, where he is scheduled to attend the French National Day celebrations as chief guest on Tuesday. Singh will oversee a contingent of Indian soldiers parade alongside their French counterparts as part of the commemoration.

Premier Singh, the first Indian leader to conferred with the honour, before leaving for Paris on Monday said French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s invitation, seeking his presence as chief guest, was an “honour for the people of India.”

“India and France enjoy a close and wide ranging strategic partnership. Our relations with France encompass a large number of areas and have served our national interests well,” read the prime ministerial departure statement.

Sarkozy was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations last year and his invitation was widely accepted as a reciprocal gesture.

A 400 strong Indian contingent, comprising of soldiers from the three Defence Services, parades down the 1.5-km stretch of Champs Elysees, as part of celebrations this year.

President Sarkozy’s office says, the invitation to Indian troops was a testimony of Paris’ belief that “India has a primary role on the international scene, and that we support India’s candidacy to become a UN Security Council permanent member.”

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