NEW DELHI: Very quietly, France has awarded its highest honor to the visiting Saudi Prince. It comes as a surprise because France had been very vocal against the mass executions carried out in Saudi Arabia during the New Year. So, what does it mean? Does it devalue France’s highest honor or does it indicate a strategic change in bilateral relations?

The honor has been awarded to Saudi throne, Prince Mohammed bin Naif. Actually, the Crown Prince had visited France on 4th March. It was the same time when French President Hollande had held talks with Angela Merkel on how to deal with the refugee issue.

It’s quite interesting that though the visit of Merkel had been reported quite widely on the social media, the presence of the Saudi Delegation was absent from any news. In their defense, the officials have stated that it’s a ‘common protocol’ in France to bestow highest honors to the visiting dignitaries.

On the other hand, the Saudi controlled press has stated that this ‘honor’ reveals the support and solidarity to Saudi Arabia for combating terrorism and extremism in West Asia.

Interestingly, this honor, called as the ‘’Legion of Honor’ had been founded way back by Napolean in 1802. It is regarded as one of the highest merits and honors in the current world. Along with the Saudi Prince, the honor has also been bestowed to two veterans from the Second World War.

The civil societies in both UK and France have been quite angry with Saudi Prince being awarded the honor in such a hush-hush affair. Carmen Renieri, a twitter user, openly called it ‘a day of shame for France.’

Meanwhile, Saudi Press has revealed that both France and Saudi Arabia are looking forward to boost their bilateral ties, especially in their effort to combat extremism. Therefore, does this award indicate that France has officially picked its sides when it comes to Syrian ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities?

Saudi minister of culture and information Adel al-Toraifi has called this visit as a ‘success’.

Nevertheless, it is quite condemnable how France is trying to boost its ties with Saudi Arabia, in spite of clearly knowing its human right abuses, the termination of Arab Spring in Bahrain and fuelling of tensions in Yemen. It also reveals how the foreign powers are investing on the echelons of the GCC countries, which can be on whatever economical or political reasons.