On Jan. 26, 1950, independent India’s Constitution came into effect and the country became a republic.

This date, known as Republic Day, is celebrated with great pomp and ceremony each year, with the nation's strength, diversity and achievements put on public display. For the occasion, an invitation is extended to a foreign dignitary as the chief guest. In recent times — as India has ascended the international hierarchy and its global ambitions have expanded commensurately — typical invitees have been the leaders of countries that are important to India.

This year, the honor fell to French President Emmanuel Macron, further cementing his bonds with the country following a state visit in 2018 and his attendance of the G20 summit in New Delhi last year. As I watched some of the events live on TV, and read and listened to comments by retired Indian ambassadors and senior journalists in the media, it was clear to me that France has become India’s most important interlocutor in Europe, more so than the United Kingdom — the former colonial power — and Germany, the region's leading powerhouse.