Hollande’s Visit to India

Terrorism, Defence and Climate Change the priority

Business & Politics

News - Biz@India

January 26, 2016

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The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the President of France, Mr. Francois Hollande, at Hyderabad House, in Delhi on January 25, 2016.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the President of France, Mr. Francois Hollande, at Hyderabad House, in Delhi on January 25, 2016.

At the much-awaited press conference, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande signed a number of Memorandums of Understanding on the purchase of 36 Rafale combat jets and areas such as transport, education and space.

Some of the halls of the Hyderabad House, which is used by the Indian Prime Minister to hold receptions for visits by Heads of States and governments could easily be mistaken for Palais Elysée, the official residence of the French President. The exquisite paintings on the dome-shaped ceilings and in the halls are stark reminders of numerous French palaces, including the current residence of Francois Hollande.

Familiar surroundings as well as his extremely warm personal relationship with Modi evidently put the normally rather diffident President at ease during his interactions with the press at the conference held after hours of discussions with Modi over a wide ranging issues, from containing terror to expanding business ties.

The big disappointment of the conference was the non-signature of the much awaited and much hyped Inter-Governmental Agreement on the purchase of 36 Rafale combat jets, made by Dassault. The two sides have been engaged in intense negotiations over the acquisition of Rafales and though they may have cleared most of the obstacles, clearly the two were unable to conclude the price negotiations in time for Hollande’s visit.

“Only the financial aspects of the Rafale deal now needs to be tackled,” said Modi while addressing the media. Agreeing with Modi, Hollande said that these financial aspects would be soon sorted. So the two leaders contented themselves with a generic MoU, rather than a final deal, which now looks unlikely before March.

But India and France did advance with other areas of strategic and business collaboration, including the agreement between Mahindra Defence and Airbus Helicopters for a joint venture to manufacture helicopters in India. Then there were several repackaged deals that had already been announced such as Alstom and Indian Railways for manufacture of 800 electric locomotives, which had already been announced in November last.

French President Francois Hollande, who paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi by placing a wreath at Rajghat earlier during the day, said that he was impressed by India and Modi’s stance at the climate summit in Paris last December about the climate justice for the developing country and also the initiative of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) that is not merely an announcement now. Later during the day Modi and Hollande inaugurated the first interim office for the initiative at the National Institute of Solar Energy in Gurgaon, Haryana. Interestingly, both the leaders chose the Delhi metro to go to the destination in Gurgaon.

Also, putting terrorism as the key agenda for the two governments, Hollande said that France knows the terrorist agency behind the unfortunate Paris attack in November, i.e., the ISIS, and it is not impressed and would not stay quiet. Together with India that was also in the receiving end of terrorism, the most recent one being in Pathankot, France would fight for peace. “There are all kinds of threats that are hovering around countries such as India and France and one of the main aim of my visit is to reinforce and strengthen the cooperation against terrorism between our two countries,” Hollande said.

Other areas of interest that highlighted the meeting were Smart Cities, transport,
space, nuclear, education and sports, viz a viz which MoU’s were signed. Hollande, who is the fifth president from France to be invited as chief guest on Indian Republic Day expressed his honour to the India.

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