President Nicolas Sarkozy opened the traditional
Bastille Day military parade to Indian and German troops Tuesday,
as France looks to expand its global military influence and
strengthen strategic partnerships.
French forces marched with precision down the Champs Elysees
along with Indian troops in colorful uniforms and German soldiers
in sober dress.
Attack jets in tight formation roared across blue skies overhead
to the delight of thousands of cheering onlookers.
The mood in the city was unaffected by violent clashes overnight
in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil. Police used tear gas and
clubs to disperse several hundred supporters of a group of
squatters evicted from the building last week.
The annual holiday parade marks the July 14, 1789, storming of
the Bastille prison in eastern Paris that helped spark the French
French companies have been seeking new markets for their
military and nuclear technology, and Sarkozy pledged Tuesday that
despite the economic crisis he would not seek to cut French
military spending on high-tech weapons or intelligence gathering.
The French military is in the midst of restructuring that has
forced the closing of some military bases in France and Africa as
the country expands in the Persian Gulf. France hopes its presence
there will bolster international efforts to fight piracy and guard
shipping lanes while giving France more leverage with Iran and the
Sarkozy paid tribute to the effort of "modernization without
precedent," and said he would put "an absolute priority on
everything concerning intelligence" while emphasizing spending on
military technology, especially that which could be used in the
Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, greeted children who
were treated in France for wounds received in wars and conflicts
overseas, and also paid tribute to French troops serving with other
NATO troops in Afghanistan.
"I told President Obama that we would help because this country
(Afghanistan) must regain the conditions of its freedom. We are not
going to let the Taliban cut off the hands of little girls because
they put on nail polish," Sarkozy said.
The German troops marching in Tuesday's parade, under the review
of German President Horst Koehler, were part of a joint brigade
deployed in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.
As part of France's return to the NATO command structure this
year after a 43-year absence, France welcomed the German troops
into the Strasbourg brigade
The focus on India was part of French attempts to extend its
influence in regions where it has been overshadowed by Britain and
the United States and to find new markets for its military and
"We want to strengthen our strategic partnership with France in
every possible way," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at
the annual garden party that French presidents host on the lawn of
the Elysee Palace.
France is trying to sell India its Rafale jets and get a
contract to modernize 50 Mirage planes belonging to the Indian
army. Sales of French helicopters and radars are also under
Cambodian Prime Minister Prime Minister Hun Sen also was present
for the ceremonies.