New Delhi | Two Rafale fighter jets flanked by a 'Phoenix' multi-role tanker transport aircraft of the French air force roared off Delhi's sky as India celebrated its 75th Republic Day at a grand parade on Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron gracing it as the chief guest.
As soon as around 95 French troops marched down the Kartavya Path in the heart of the national capital, the whizzing warplanes pierced the morning sky making thousands of spectators crane their necks in wonder and amazement.
A 30-member band contingent from France also drew attention at the grand parade.
It was the second time the French armed forces participated in India's Republic Day celebrations. In 2016, French troops became the first foreign military contingent to participate in the biggest ceremonial event in the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the guest of honour at the prestigious Bastille Day Parade in Paris in July last year.
The Indian Air Force's Rafale fighter jets and a tri-services marching contingent took part in the Bastille Day parade.
As the French marching contingent marched down the Kartavya Path, the two Rafale jets and the Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft flew in a triangle formation.
The Rafale jets came from the 104 "Al Dhafra" air base, located in the United Arab Emirates. Their unit traces its origin back to World Wars I and II.
The Phoenix MRTT is capable of refuelling two fighters simultaneously or a single surveillance aircraft. It carries up to 110 tonnes of fuel.
The French military contingent was from two Infantry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion and it comprised six Indians. It was led by Captain Noel Louis.
The marching contingent comprised around 95 legionnaires and they have been deployed in several combat missions in the past few years, including in Afghanistan, Mali, French overseas territories.
The legionnaires wear the famous 'White Cap, which can be worn only by legionnaires after successfully completing four months of hard selection tests.
Created in 1831 and the French Foreign Legion is engaged in all major operations carried out by the French Army. The elite military unit is open to foreigners who want to serve in the French Army.
"A great honor for France. Thank you, India," President Macron posted on 'X' in a caption to a video of the French band and the military contingents marching down in front of around 70,000 spectators.
The defence and strategic ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.
The two strategic partners have been looking at co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including for the benefit of third countries.
The two sides are also expanding cooperation in the maritime domain including in the Indian Ocean Region.