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Macron to replace Biden as India’s chief guest on Republic Day

France’s president is likely to visit New Delhi in January, as Paris is eyeing a massive defense deal with the South Asian nation

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to be the guest of honor at New Delhi’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26, PTI news agency reported on Friday, citing sources. This past July, Modi travelled to Paris as chief guest on Bastille Day.

India had earlier invited US President Joe Biden to witness the grand ceremony. However, reports emerged earlier this month that the US leader won’t be able to make it. The Quad grouping summit scheduled to be held in the Indian capital in January has also been postponed

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited Biden to be the chief guest for Republic Day during their bilateral meeting on September 8 on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Later, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti confirmed that Biden had received an invitation.

New Delhi was also looking to schedule the Quad Summit, which groups India, Australia, Japan and the US, for January 27 to align with Biden’s planned visit. However, PTI reported on December 12 that the summit would be postponed and that Biden is likely to skip the trip.

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and US President Joe Biden arrive to pay respect at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Raj Ghat on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 10, 2023.
Joe Biden likely to give India visit a miss – media

 The development came in the wake of accusations leveled by Washington against India over its alleged involvement in an assassination plot foiled by the FBI, which targeted prominent Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York. 

Meanwhile, the reports of Macron traveling to New Delhi as the Republic Day parade’s chief guest comes just a day after Indian media reported that India has received price bids from France for the purchase of 26 Rafale-M fighter jets (the naval version of the warplane), as well as three additional Scorpene-class conventional submarines.

While the deal for 26 jets is a government-to-government agreement, the procurement of submarines is an extension of an earlier contract with France’s Naval Group. Under the contract, Mumbai-based shipbuilder Mazagon Dockyard Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) is constructing six submarines. 

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) review troops during the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2023.
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France submitted a ‘Letter of Acceptance’ earlier this week, outlining the pricing and other details of its offer for 26 Rafale-M jets, which are meant to operate from aircraft carriers, according to The Hindu. The deal, which is estimated to be worth 5.5 billion euros, will be inked after the final cost negotiations and the requisite approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security, Times of India noted. 

The price offer for the submarines was also submitted by MDL earlier this month, the report added. At the moment, India operates 36 Rafale jets procured in 2016 for around 8 billion euros. Getting the naval version of the fighter jets is crucial for the Indian Navy, which has an inadequate number of warplanes to operate from its aircraft carrier.

India currently has two such warships: the IINS Vikramaditya, acquired from Russia, and the domestically designed INS Vikrant, slated to be “operationalized” by the end of January 2024, after completing its mandatory ‘guarantee refit’ at Cochin Shipyard, where it was constructed. At the moment, both warships carry Russia-made MiG-29K jets. India acquired 45 shipborne multi-role fighters from Moscow between 2009 and 2016.

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December 22, 2023 at 12:43PM

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