Paris — Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi watched aerial demonstrations at the Paris air show Saturday after kicking off “India Year” festivities that included a parade of elephants and camels.

Wearing dark glasses against the bright afternoon sun at the Paris air show, Gandhi also viewed the performance of French Mirage 2000 planes, of which India has ordered 40.

The Indian prime minister’s visit to the exhibition at Le Bourget Airport featuring about 30 jets, airplanes and helicopters was the highlight on the third day of his four day stay in France.

Gandhi, a former pilot for Indian airlines, also got to see aerial acrobatics by the first Indian plane to demonstrate at Le Bourget the HTT 34 two-seater made by Hindustan Aeronautics.

French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, who hosted Gandhi at the exhibition, said they were able to “continue their conversations” and that Franco Indian commercial relations could be improved.

Fabius also hosted a luncheon at the airport for about 3,000 people, including Italian Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini and the vice prime minister of Oman, Bin Taimoun AlSaid.

Gandhi began the day with a breakfast meeting with French President Francois Mitterrand and talks with rightwing opposition leader Jacques Chirac, the mayor of Paris.

Friday night, Gandhi and Mitterrand attended a gala adjacent to the Eiffel Tower that kicked off “Indian Year’ festivities aimed at promoting the understanding of Indian culture in France.

Some 10,000 people at- tended the outdoor event that began with a prarade of elephants and camels and ended with firecrackers shot from a barge on the Seine River.

The event included Indian girls dancing to flutes on platforms over the Seine while crowds munched Indian snacks such as semolina mixed with almonds and raisins.

Frenchman Henri Mathieu, who recently visited India, said, “I saw more elephants here than I saw in India.”

Gandhi presented Mitterrand with a cup filled with water from the Ganges River and Indian youths symbolically dropped Ganges water and flowers into the Seine.

Article extracted from this publication >>  June 14, 1985