NEW DELHI, Jan 25: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmaunel Macron held a roadshow in Jaipur on Thursday, hours after the French leader landed in Rajasthan’s capital city ahead of the Republic Day event where he is the chief guest reciprocating Mr Modi’s gesture of being the Guest of Honour at France’s Bastille Day celebrations in July last year.
Emmanuel Macron visited the Amer Fort, where a cultural event was held. M Modi joined him for a tour of Jantar Mantar, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The two leaders held the massive joint roadshow from Jantar Mantar to Sanganeri gate with a stopover at Hawa Mahal. Sources said they had Jaipur’s special masala chai at Hawa Mahal and picked up some handicraft items. Handicraft kiosks have been set up adjacent to the Hawa Mahal for the dignitaries to browse.
The visit comes as the Centre and the French government continue to negotiate multi-billion dollar deals for French fighter jets and submarines for the army. It is expected that India’s proposed procurement of 26 Rafale fighter jets and the three Scorpion submarines would also figure in the bilateral talks that will be held later.
France is India’s second-largest arms supplier and has been one of its oldest and closest partners in Europe for decades. President Macron had accepted the last-minute invite for the Republic Day celebration, which has been read as a mark on the strength of the bilateral relations between the two nations.
New Delhi had dialled Paris when US President Joe Biden conveyed that he could not come.
Earlier in the day, Macron was accompanied by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Divya Kumari when he visited the Amer Fort, This was followed by visits to the Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar along with Mr Modi. Modi and Macron met for dinner at Jaipur’s Taj Rambagh Palace after the roadshow, where they held discussions on bilateral and global issues of concern and interest.
Macron will be the sixth leader from France to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations. Sources said Macron’s visit is a unique reciprocal gesture involving visits by Heads of States on successive national days — the PM visited France on its National Day on July 13-14 last year.