By: Neeraj Rajput
History repeated on Friday as a revival of ‘lost glory’ when Indian soldiers marched at the Avenue des Champs Elysees Avenue of Paris in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But few had known that it would be a repeat of a picture-perfect moment exactly 107 years later when a French lady pinned a flower on the chest of one of the soldiers of the Indian marching contingent.
EurAsian Times had reported last week (‘After 107 years, Indian Soldiers To March In Paris Again; Wheel of History Returns For Punjab Regiment’) that in 1916 when Indian soldiers were de-inducting from Marseilles after routing Germans, a French lady had pinned a flower on the chest of an Indian soldier.
With the valor and courage of Indian soldiers, France didn’t fall into the hands of Germany. A French lady wanted to pay her gratitude to the Indian soldiers who were part of the British Indian Army.
Britain and France were part of the Allied Forces fighting against Germany during the First World War.
EurAsian Times, in its report, exclusively shared the black and white picture of World War I of the French lady pinning the flower on the chest of Risaldar-Major Ganga Dutt of the Indian Cavalry Corps of the British Indian Army.
The picture and the EurAsian Times report were widely shared by the ‘digital-citizens’.
So when again a French lady (soldier) pinned a flower on the chest of an Indian marching contingent, Indian Army was quick to share both the pictures (of 1916 and 2023) on its official Twitter account.
“Solidarity, Friendship, and Spirit endure…” with hashtags of ‘Bastille Day’ and ‘India-France Friendship.’
1916 to 2023
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) July 14, 2023
PM Modi also talked about the courage and chivalry of Indian soldiers during the First World War while addressing the Indian community in Paris. He mentioned the supreme sacrifice that Indian soldiers had made on the soil of France over 100 years ago.
After the impressive French National Day parade on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron himself met the contingent commander of the Indian Army, Capt Aman Jagtap, in the presence of PM Modi.
Capt Jagtap belonged to one of the oldest infantry regiments of the Indian Army, the Punjab Regiment.
President Macron, sharing the video of the Indian contingent participating in the Bastille Day parade, later tweeted:
“This 14 July, soldiers and Rafale aircraft from India are marching and flying alongside our troops. We honor the memory of those who fought with the French in the First World War. We shall never forget.”
इस 14 जुलाई को, भारत के सैनिक और रफ़ाल लड़ाकू विमान हमारे सैनिकों के साथ परेड में शामिल हैं।
हम उन लोगों की स्मृति का सम्मान करते हैं जो प्रथम विश्व युद्ध में फ्रांसीसी सेना के साथ मिलकर लड़े थे। हम कभी नहीं भूलेंगें । pic.twitter.com/37twI5Dqzd
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 14, 2023
This year, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, was invited as the Guest of Honour at the Bastille Day Parade or Fête Nationale Française, the French National Day.
It is known as Bastille Day, the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 during the French Revolution. The Bastille Day parade witnessed a 269-member tri-services contingent of the Indian Armed Forces marching alongside their French counterparts.
Four Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force also participated in the fly-past alongside French aircraft in the Paris sky during the parade, which took place in the background of last week’s violent protests and riots in France.
The Army contingent in Paris is represented by the Punjab Regiment, which is one of the oldest Regiments of the Indian Army. The Punjab Regiment had participated in both the World Wars (I & II).
In World War-I, troops of the Punjab Regiment were awarded 18 Battle and Theatre Honours. The gallant soldiers fought in Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, Palestine, Egypt, China, Hongkong, Damascus, and France. In France, they took part in an offensive near Neuve Chapelle in September 1915, earning the Battle Honours’ Loos’ and ‘France and Flanders.’
The association of the Indian and the French Armies dates back to World War I when over 1.3 million Indian soldiers participated in the war. Almost 74,000 fought in the muddy trenches to never return (made the supreme sacrifice), while another 67,000 were wounded.
Later, World War II witnessed a whopping 2.5 million Indian soldiers making significant contributions in various theatres of the war from Asia to Africa and Europe. This also included the battlefields of France.
The Indian troops established their valor in these wars, which was well recognized in the form of several gallantry awards being bestowed on the Indian soldiers. In World War II, soldiers of the Punjab Regiment earned 16 Battle Honours and 14 Theatre Honours.
This year, India and France celebrate 25 years of ‘Strategic Partnership.’ The armies of both countries have been participating in joint exercises and sharing their experiences.
Over the years, India and France have become reliable defense partners, with the Indian Air Force (IAF) operating 36 French Rafale fighter jets, procured in a G2G (Government to Government) deal inked in ’16. The deal was himself announced by PM Modi during his first visit to Paris in 2015 as Prime Minister.
IAF also operated French Mirage 2000 fighter jets, which had carried out an airstrike on the training camp of the terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in the Balakot area of Pakistan in Feb 2019 in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.
When PM Modi was in Paris, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced plans to procure 26 marine versions of Rafale fighter jets from France for the Indian Navy. The MoD also said 03 more Scorpene class submarines will be procured from France.
France has already assisted India in constructing 06 other Scorpene class submarines at Mazgaon Dockyard in Mumbai.
- Neeraj Rajput is a Senior War-journalist with more than two decades of multimedia experience in defense, conflict, security, strategic affairs & geopolitics.
- Please mail us at etdesk (at) eurasiantimes.com
- The author tweets at @neeraj_rajput