French President Macron joins India's Republic Day celebrations as chief guest

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Indian President Droupadi Murmu with her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron arrive in a ceremonial British-era horse-drawn carriage for the Republic day parade in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. Thousands of people cheer a colorful parade showcasing India's defense capability and cultural heritage braving a winter chill and mist on a ceremonial boulevard in the Indian capital. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI – Thousands of people lined a ceremonial boulevard in the heart of India's capital on Friday to watch a colorful parade showcasing the country's military power and cultural heritage to mark its 75th Republic Day.

French President Emmanuel Macron attended the parade as the chief guest at the celebration of the adoption of the country’s Constitution on Jan. 26, 1950, following India's independence from British colonial rule.

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Indian President Draupadi Murmu escorted Macron in a ceremonial British-era horse-drawn carriage from the nearby president’s palace to the viewing stand. It was the first time the carriage has been used at the parade since it was abandoned by the government 40 years ago in favor of an automobile.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a saffron-and-yellow–colored turban representing Hindu nationalist colors, greeted Macron at the viewing stand.

The parade was broadcast live by television networks and watched by millions of Indians across the country.

India traditionally invites foreign leaders to witness the spectacle. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi was the guest of honor last year, former French President Francois Hollande in 2016 and former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015. Ten Southeast Asian leaders watched the parade in 2018.

Tanks, missile systems, infantry combat vehicles and medium-range surface-to-air missile systems were displayed at the parade, with hundreds of police and military personnel marching with them. Stunt performers on motorbikes, including more than 250 women, also joined.

Other participants included a camel-mounted regiment with mustachioed riders led by a shiny brass band.

Floats showcased Hindu Lord Rama, whose temple was inaugurated earlier this week, India’s moon lander, its first indigenous aircraft carrier, a light combat aircraft and helicopter, and a submarine.

Macron accepted India’s invitation at short notice after U.S. President Joe Biden couldn’t make it, reportedly because of his State of the Union address and reelection bid.

A French 30-member band and 90-member marching group joined the parade.

A French transport aircraft and two fighter jets from the French air force joined 54 Indian air force aircraft in a fly-over past the viewing stand.

“A great honor for France. Thank you, India,” Macron said on X, formerly called Twitter.

Rajpath Avenue, built by India’s former British rulers, has been redeveloped as part of the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Indian independence three years ago. It is lined by huge lawns, canals and rows of trees and has been renamed Kartavayapath, or Boulevard of Duty.

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