French President to visit India early next year

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 09, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron will embark on his maiden visit to India early next year with focus on establishing bilateral cooperation for enhancing security in the Indian Ocean Region, emboldening counter-terrorism measures under strategic partnership and taking economic issues to the next level.

President Macron’s visit to India will take place during the International Solar Alliance Summit, the grouping’s first global summit to be hosted by India.

The Alliance — an initiative by India to bring together 121 countries to boost solar power generation — was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Former French President Francois Hollande in November 2015. So far, 15 countries have ratified it. However, both France and India are keen to have it ratified by some more countries before the Summit can be held, according to French diplomatic sources.

According to sources, the primary focus of Macron’s visit to India will be to establish a dialogue mechanism for greater security and strategic cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

“We are part of the Indian Ocean Rim and we have special interest which is not shared by any other countries. Only India and France are the two key players in the region. Almost two million French people live in this region. We want more structured cooperation in defence, maritime and security issues with India on this,” said a French official.

France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian is arriving in Delhi on Friday, Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India, said at press conference.

During the visit, the issue of greater cooperation in the Indian Ocean region will be raised when the French Minister meets his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj, the Ambassador said.

Apart from a sprawling two million sq. km. Special Economic Zone (SEZ), France also has two fully-equipped military bases at La Reunion and Mayotte that lies at a region through which some of world’s busiest shipping lines pass. They also have significant military presence in Abu Dhabi and Djibouti.

French diplomatic sources said during the visit of their Foreign Minister, discussions on selling more Rafale fighters jets to India is likely to be discussed. This will be in addition to the 36 jets that India bought in flyaway mode.

“If there is a need for more Rafale jets by the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, we will be more than happy for more cooperation under Make In India,” the official said.

Published on November 15, 2017

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