Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage to the 10,000 Indian soldiers who were martyred while fighting alongside the French during World War I, as he visited the Neuve-Chapelle war memorial in Lille. He became the first Indian Prime Minister to do so.
Prime Minister Modi went to the martyrs memorial at Neuve-Chapelle and laid a wreath. Officials of the memorial also briefed him about its history.
"Either being slain you will attain the heavenly world. Or by gaining victory you will enjoy the earth. I am honoured to pay homage to the Indian soldiers here at the Indian memorial at Neuve-Chapelle," he wrote in the visitors' book.
"Our soldiers who fought in foreign lands in the great war, have won the admiration of the world for dedication, loyalty, courage and sacrifice. I salute them.
"I would like to express my gratitude to the commonwealth war graves commission for the excellent care and maintenance of this monument dedicated to Indian soldiers. I also thank the government of France for the conduct of this solemn ceremony," he wrote.
"At Neuve-Chapelle Memorial, remembered the courage & sacrifice of Indian soldiers martyred in World War I," PM Modi said in a tweet.
"Remembering the services of the brave. PM @narendramodi at the Neuve Chapelle Memorial for Indian soldiers," tweeted Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
PM Modi was accompanied by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. He spent some 40-50 minutes at the memorial where several Indians had also gathered and the prime minister walked across the road to meet them while slogans of "Vande Mataram" were raised.
At the memorial, Prime Minister Modi gifted an Indian diplomacy's publication on India and the Great War.
He also gifted a replica of Garhwal WWI Memorial during his visit to Neuve Chapelle Memorial.
Six of 11 Indian Victoria Cross winners in World War I were those who served in France and Flanders.
Anecdotes of Indian soldiers in the fighting fields of France, a century ago, were also recalled.
PM Modi, who made the visit amid rains, later returned to Paris.