Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor Conferred France’s Highest Civilian Honour

Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor Conferred France’s Highest Civilian Honour

A prolific author and a diplomat-turned-politician, Shashi Tharoor was conferred France’s highest civilian honour “Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur” on Tuesday at a ceremony in Delhi.

Tharoor is a Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram and an author of several books. He was conferred the prestigious award at the French Embassy by the French Senate President Gerard Larcher.

The French government had announced the award for Tharoor, a former Union minister, in August 2022 but was conferred on him on Tuesday.

A statement issued by the French Embassy said, “The highest French civilian award came in recognition of Dr Tharoor’s tireless efforts to deepen Indo-French ties, commitment to international peace and cooperation, and as a long-standing friend of France.”

Conferring the honour on Tharoor, Chairman of the French Senate Larcher said, ”Through his outstanding career as a diplomat, author and politician, Shashi Tharoor has embraced the world with a thirst for knowledge and an intelligence that has led him to live several lifetimes in one, and all of them in service to India and a better world.” ”Dr Tharoor is also a true friend of France, a Francophone with a keen understanding of France and its culture. Through this award, which I have the privilege to confer, the French Republic recognises your accomplishments, your friendship, your love of France, your commitment to a fairer world,” Larcher said.

After receiving the recognition, Tharoor said that he was immensely honoured to accept the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour).

”As someone who admires France, its people, their refinement, their language, and their culture, especially their literature and cinema, I am deeply humbled to be conferred your country’s highest civilian honour.

”To my mind, the conferral of this award to an Indian is an acknowledgement of the deepening of Franco-Indian relations and the continuity of the warmth that has been a feature of this relationship for a very long time,” Tharoor said.

This honour, in a sense, is not just a celebration of individual achievement but ”also reflects the collective efforts of both our countries in fostering cultural exchange and diplomatic ties, a relationship forged through the pillars of mutual respect, admiration, and collaboration that have allowed this unique association to flourish over the years”, he said.

”I look forward to continuing my own efforts towards nurturing this friendship and promoting further cooperation between India and France, for the betterment of our shared global community and to safeguard the common values that underpin our basic humanity,” Tharoor added.

The Congress leader said he has also nurtured a sense of profound respect for French democracy.

”The land of ’liberté, égalité, fraternité’ where the people first replaced the king as the nucleus of the nation. It’s not too much to claim that the idea of a nation belonging to the people, the idea of a democratic state, was born in your country,” Tharoor said.

In the course of his career at the United Nations, the Congress MP said he has had the privilege of knowing a large number of French foreign ministers in person, and of meeting three presidents of the French Republic and several prime ministers.

”Throughout these relationships, I’ve been impressed to observe their reverence for the Republic’s genesis and its founding principles which has given me, in turn, a deep-rooted appreciation of French democracy,” he said.

As they reconcile with the collapse of the post-war order, India and France recognise the urgency of building coalitions that can provide some stability in an increasingly unstable world, the former minister of state for external affairs said.

France, which had sought strategic autonomy as part of its alliance with the United States and India, which valued an independent foreign policy, are natural partners in building new coalitions for uncertain times, Tharoor asserted.

In his address, the Congress MP also recounted the defining moment of his French trip in 2002 for the Belles Etrangeres sponsored by the Centre National du Livre.

”Our Indian group of writers, returning from a reception at the majestic Hotel de Ville, found themselves accidental witnesses to the interment of the nineteenth-century novelist Alexandre Dumas, more than a century after his death, in the magnificently lit Pantheon,” he recalled.

The Roman columns of this great Parisian monument were bathed in purple, red and blue light, a military band played outside, while an honour guard escorted the coffin of the author of The Three Musketeers to its final resting place, Tharoor recounted.

”Ananthamurthy, the veteran novelist who was the doyen of our group, put it simply to me. ’The French,’ he said, really know how to honour their writers’. May I now add: I am glad they are honouring ours, too,” Tharoor said.

Instituted in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion d’honneur is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipients.

The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour.

French envoy to India Thierry Mathou, India’s G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant, Lok Sabha MP Danish Ali, and Congress leader Anand Sharma, among others, attended the ceremony.

(with PTI inputs)

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