Tuesday October 16, 2018
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Paris remembers unknown Indian soldiers

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Paris: In a moving ceremony, organised here for the first time, martyred Indian soldiers were remembered at the iconic Arc de Triomphe, which is home to the Flame in the Memory of the Unknown Soldier.

The flame has been rekindled by the French army every single day since November 1923, even during the Second World War when Paris was occupied by the Germans. However, so far it had never been done in the memory of Indian soldiers, even though over 10,000 of them laid down their lives in the defence of France and other allied nations in the First World War, which had seen over 130,000 Indian soldiers arrive in France to battle the Germans.

The proof of the valiant Indian soldiers lies in Neuve Chapelle, a small village on the border with Belgium, where 4,200 Indian soldiers were killed in intense fighting that lasted over three days. The Indian armies finally drove out the German occupiers and gained control of this strategic village.

To commemorate these soldiers, the Indian community got together with the Indian embassy here, to organise a ceremony for the first time. The initiative was taken by Rajaram Munuswamy, secretary general of GOPIO International, the organisation that brings together persons of Indian origin in various countries around the world.

“In this centenary year of the World War I, we have organised several events to honour Indian soldiers and that is why we approached the French defence ministry to allow us to commemorate the ceremony at this unique monument. This is the first time in the history of France that the Indian community is remembering its soldiers,” Munuswamy told this correspondent.

For this occasion, GOPIO chose a very auspicious and indeed apt day, December 16, which is also celebrated as the V-Day in 1971 war with Pakistan and which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

The flame was lit by Indian Ambassador Mohan Kumar in the presence of over 400 members of the Indian diaspora, who had gathered not only from France but also from Britain, Guadeloupe and Mauritius, among other countries. Notable among those present was GOPIO International president Diljit Rana GOPIO International chairman Mahen Utchanah.

Before the flame was lit, the diaspora members organised a small march on the Champs Elysées, bearing the Indian tricolour as well as the flags of France and GOPI.

On the occasion, Mohan Kumar thanked the Indian community in France for having taken the initiative and joining in the efforts of the Indian embassy to ensure that a proper recognition is awarded to the valiant efforts and sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers in France over a century ago.

After the brief ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, the event continued in a nearby hotel where the Indian ambassador and prominent GOPIO members shared their thoughts on the unity and cohesion needed among the communities worldwide to combat the terrorism which has no frontiers and affects the humanity. (Ranvir Nair, IANS)

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Indian Defense Minister Travels To France To Settle The Jet Deal

The French Embassy in New Delhi immediately issued a statement saying that a security agreement bound the two countries to protect classified information.

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India
A Rafale single-seat jet aircraft flies during the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget airport, north of Paris. VOA

India’s defense minister is traveling to Paris to speak with the French government amid controversy over a multibillion-dollar deal to sell 36 fighter jets to India.

The 2016 deal was for India to buy Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault. The leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, has accused Narendra Modi’s government of buying the aircraft at nearly three times the price being negotiated when his party was in power before Modi became prime minister in 2014.

Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who will meet her French counterpart, Florence Parly, on Thursday, has refuted the claim.

India
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents as he accuses Narendra Modi’s government of buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault at a highly inflated price, in New Delhi, India. VOA

Gandhi also accused Modi’s government of favoring the company owned by industrialist Anil Ambani, Reliance Group, when choosing an Indian partner for Dassault.

India’s government has denied any wrongdoing.

Dassault Aviation said in a statement Wednesday that it “has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group.”

The French company explained that it has committed to side deals in India worth 50 percent of the value of the jet purchases. In order to deliver those side deals, it has decided to create a joint-venture with Reliance Group.

India
Rafale Deal is very important for both the countries involved i.e. India and France.

The controversy has intensified following comments last month by former French President Francois Hollande — who was in charge when the deal was signed in 2016 — suggesting France had no say in the choice of the Indian company.

Gandhi appears to be bent on making the Rafale deal an election issue ahead of the general vote in early 2019. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing Hindu nationalist party are the front-runners in the race.

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Gandhi has been pressing the government to reveal the exact price of the Rafale aircraft deal, claiming that French President Emmanuel Macron told him in March that there was no secrecy clause.

The French Embassy in New Delhi immediately issued a statement saying that a security agreement bound the two countries to protect classified information. (VOA)

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