PARIS (Reuters) - India wants to strengthen trade and political ties with France, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday after Indian troops were given pride of place in the annual Bastille Day military parade. About 400 Indian soldiers headed the colourful march down the Champs Elysees, under the gaze of Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, while French military aircraft roared overhead. The two men held a working lunch, where they discussed trade, including defence and nuclear energy projects. "France loves India," Sarkozy told guests on the lawn of the Elysee Palace after the talks with Singh. "I hope that we can deepen our strategic partnership in all possible ways ... so that we can write a new chapter in the history of the world," Singh said, standing alongside Sarkozy. Among other contracts under review were the modernisation and renovation of about 50 Mirage combat planes operated by India. "Both sides want to deepen their industrial cooperation in the defence sector," the presidential source said. Sarkozy and Singh discussed atomic energy and were "happy that things continue to progress", the source said. India plans to spend more than $30b over the next five years on modernising its largely Soviet-era weapons systems and has launched an ambitious civilian nuclear energy programme worth billions of dollars. Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that France remains committed to maintaining its defence budget and pursuing its mission in Afghanistan despite the pressure caused by the economic slowdown. Speaking to state television after the annual Bastille Day military parade down the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, Sarkozy said the armed forces would receive new intelligence gathering and protective equipment. "They know that we're going to make a great effort on their equipment. They will have all means to protect themselves in the battles that they will fight in," he said. France, the President said, would invest $527 billion in new gear for its armed forces over the next 12 years in order to maintain and improve their capacity to take on 21st-century conflicts. He added that France remained committed to the Nato mission in Afghanistan, despite a recent increase in attacks from an increasingly confident Taliban. "It's practically a year, day for day, since 10 French soldiers were killed. It's a very difficult job they're doing over there. This is a country that needs to see its freedom restored," Sarkozy told France 2 television. "We are not going to allow the return of the Taliban, who cut off the hands of young girls who wore nail varnish, who decided that girls could not go to school, who shut up women in the burqa, who stoned so-called adulterers. Responding to concerns that a recent defence review will leave France with fewer troops and bases, Sarkozy said the new force would be better armed and protected and that the army had adapted with "brio" to the changes. "The challenge for tomorrow is to have a France, with its 65 million people, recognised as a great power: That our voice be heard," he said. The French senate is expected to vote on Wednesday (today) to approve a five-year military reform programme which will see 80 units abolished and 54,000 jobs cut among military and civilian defence staff.