For the first time in India’s history, French soldiers might march down the Rajpath on Republic Day this January 26.
No foreign Army has ever participated as part of Indian Republic Day parade and marched down the Rajpath alongside Indian soldiers.
The initiative would be taken in presence of the French President Francois Hollande, who would be the chief guest for 2016’s Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.
Citing Government sources, the PTI reports that a contingent of 56 French personnel of 35th Infantry Regiment of 7th Armoured Brigade would be part of the parade and that some of them are already in India.
The soldiers are currently in Rajasthan taking part in a joint exercise which began on January 8 and more soldiers are expected to fly down soon for a proper marching contingent.
The French soldiers are training alongside their Indian counterparts in the joint counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency exercise called ‘Shakti 2016’.
Though the news about their participation has not been confirmed yet, the move would not come as a surprise as not only is the French President would be the chief guest this year, but a high-level team from France is also expected to be in the capital soon.
The French team would be in Delhi to give final touches to the government-to-government framework agreement for 36 Rafale fighter jets, which is likely to be signed by the end of this month.
The French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is also set to visit India ahead of Republic Day, though the date of his arrival has not been finalised yet.
The agreement is expected to pave the way for a final contract, that if all goes well would be signed ahead of French President’s visit and will make way for any future scope of military cooperation between the two nation.
The signing of 36 Rafales contract, will also come as a major relief for the Indian Air Force who have been looking for a quick induction of more fighter aircraft into their fleet.
The 35th Infantry Regiment who are currently in India, have been part of the French Army since its raising in 1604 at Lorraine. The regiment has got as many as 12 battle honours to their credit and have varied combat experiences, having already served in Algeria, Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries.