What gifts PM Modi lavished on France's leaders

Modi went bearing gifts: a sandalwood sitar, a Pochampally ikat, an inlaid Makrana marble table and a hand-knotted Kashmiri silk carpet. Hopefully the deals sealed justify the attention!

Narendra Modi gifting a sandalwood sitar to French president Emmanuel Macron on his two-day visit to France, on Saturday, July 15 (photo courtesy: @airnewsalerts/Twitter)
Narendra Modi gifting a sandalwood sitar to French president Emmanuel Macron on his two-day visit to France, on Saturday, July 15 (photo courtesy: @airnewsalerts/Twitter)

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

During his two-day official visit to France over July 13–14 to shake on defence deals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the traditional Bastille Day military parade as the guest of honour—and lavished the French head of state and other top leaders with a range of gifts, showcasing Indian textiles, art and craftsmanship.

While no official estimate has been released on the monetary value of the of gifts or the total expenditure of the prime minister's high-level trip to Paris, the objects included a sitar carved out of sandalwood, a Pochampally ikat presented in a sandalwood box, an inlaid Makrana marble table, a hand-carved sandalwood elephant in the ambavari style, and a hand-knitted Kashmiri silk carpet.

French president Emmanuel Macron received the sandalwood sitar. This intricately carved replica of the traditional musical instrument showcases the art of sandalwood carving practised in South India for centuries.

This sitar features depictions of the goddess Saraswati, representation of knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom and learning, who is customarily imagined holding a sitar. This sculpture also incorporates an image of Lord Ganesha, and is adorned with peacocks, India's national bird, and other meticulously carved motifs.

The president's wife Brigitte Macron received the Pochampally saree, representative of the weaving heritage of the eponymous town in Telangana, renowned for its intricate designs and vibrant colours of space-dyed yarn.

Élisabeth Borne, the French prime minister, received a Makrana marble table inlaid with semi-precious stones. The town in Rajasthan is the source of the highest quality marble in India.

Gerard Larcher, president of the French senate, received a hand-carved ambavari-style sandalwood elephant—a heritage craft from Jaipur.

His counterpart in the French national assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet was presented with a hand-knotted silk carpet from Kashmir, their craftsmanship sought after worldwide.

None of this is too unusual, of course.

On his recent three-day visit to United States over June 21–24, the Indian prime minister also presented President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden with a bouquet of gifts—a first edition of W.B. Yeats' translation of The Ten Principal Upanishads, a rare lab-grown 7.5 carat green diamond, and more.

Modi has taken several foreign trips in the recent past, which the government claims has "enhanced understanding of India's perspectives on regional and global issues among foreign partners at the highest level". However, what remains undocumented in the official statements that have been shared is how much of the taxpayers' money has been spent on these trips.

In December last year, CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem filed an RTI seeking the details of the total expenditures incurred by the PM's foreign visits in the last five years.

In response, the Union minister of state for external affairs and parliamentary affairs V. Muraleedharan revealed the tally for some of Modi's foreign visits in 2022. For instance, the visit to Indonesia for the G20 Summit of November 14–15 cost India over Rs 32 lakh; the Japan visit of September 26–28 cost almost Rs 24 lakh; and the visits to Europe earlier that year cost Rs 2.15 crore.

However, no official data has been published on the government's website with budgetary details of Modi's foreign diplomatic visits since 2021. The last published tally is from 13–15 November 2019 for the pre-pandemic Brazil trip .

With inputs from Kushan Niyogi

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines