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New Delhi: Strategic partners for nearly 15 years, India and France will seek to further cement their multi-faceted ties during the visit of French President Francois Hollande who arrives here today.
The French president will head a high-level delegation, including six ministers and a 50-member trade delegation. For Hollande, who became president last May, this would be his first bilateral state visit to Asia, and on a personal level, his first visit to India.
He will be accompanied by his companion Valerie Trierweiler — a journalist. They are the first unmarried couple to represent France. While the two big ticket deals with France — the over $10bn contract for the purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets and French reactors for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant — are not ready for being inked during the visit, Hollande and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are to discuss the status of the contracts during their delegation-level talks today.
The ties between the two countries covers areas such as defence, civil nuclear energy, space and counter terrorism, besides education, science and technology and culture among other areas.
Six ministers, including Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Trade Minister Nicole Bricq, will be part of the delegation, a diplomatic source said. Around four agreements, including in the field of education, are to be inked between the two sides, said a source, but declined to reveal the details. Details of the deal for the purchase of 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft — manufactured by Dassault Aviation — for the Indian Air Force are being worked out, as well as the commercial aspect of the contract for the purchase of six reactors for the Jaitapur project.
French nuclear giant Areva and Nuclear Power Corporation of India are discussing the details of the deal, as well as the liability issue. Post-Fukushima, France has tried to assure India that the reactors are “totally safe”. French ambassador Francois Richier has said the nuclear power project would prove to be a “game changer” for India.
Among the defence deals likely to be inked would be for India’s $2bn light utility helicopter (LUH) programme. Eurocopter of France is one of the competitive bidders to sell 197 LUHs to India, a diplomatic source had said.
Trade would also figure in their talks with France maintaining that “economic relations have not grown as they should have”. India-France trade in 2012 was at ¤8bn.
Hollande arrives in New Delhi today morning. He will be given a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. He will deliver a lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library tomorrow, where he will honour Nobel laureate Amartya Sen with the Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour. He will then visit Mumbai to participate in a business conference. IANS