14 July is celebrated as the Fête Nationale Française, or the National Day in France. It is also known as the Bastille Day as this day is the anniversary of Storming of the Bastille in 1789 during the French Revolution. This year, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has been invited as the Guest of Honour at the Bastille Day Parade in France. The parade will witness a 269 member tri-services contingent of the Indian Armed Forces marching alongside their French counterparts. The contingent has left for France today.
The association of the Indian and the French Armies dates back to World War 1. Over 1.3 million Indian soldiers participated in the war and almost 74,000 of them fought in the muddy trenches to never return again, while another 67,000 were wounded. Indian troops valiantly fought on French soil also. Their courage, valour and supreme sacrifice not only thwarted the enemy but also significantly contributed towards winning the war. Later World War 2 witnessed a whopping 2.5 million Indian soldiers making significant contribution in various theatres of the war from Asia to Africa and Europe. This also included the battlefields of France. The Indian troops established their valour in these wars which was well recognised in the form of several gallantry awards being bestowed on the Indian soldiers.
This year, both countries are celebrating 25 years of Strategic Partnership. The armies of both the countries have been participating in joint exercises and sharing their experiences. Over the years, India and France have become reliable defence partners.
The Indian Army contingent comprising of 77 marching personnel and 38 members of the Band is being led by Captain Aman Jagtap. Indian Navy contingent is being led by Commander Vrat Baghel and the Indian Air Force contingent by Squadron Leader Sindhu Reddy. The Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force will also form part of the fly past during the parade.
The Army contingent is being represented by Punjab Regiment which is one of the oldest Regiments of the Indian Army. The troops of the Regiment have participated in both the World Wars as well as the post-independence operations. In World War-I, they 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’. In World War-II, they earned 16 Battle Honours and 14 Theatre Honours.
The Rajputana Rifles Regiment Band is accompanying the contingent. The Regiment is the senior most rifle regiment of the Indian Army. Most of its battalions have a long and glorious history. They have taken part in some of the bloodiest battles in many theatres of the world. They have demonstrated exemplary contribution in both World Wars. During the World War-II, the battalions of the Regiment fought in every theatre where the Indian Army was involved. They are the recipient of six Victoria Cross prior to independence. The band of the Regiment was raised in 1920 at Nasirabad (Rajasthan).