Hollande in India to sell warplanes, nuclear power, metro construction
French President François Hollande was welcomed to Delhi by his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee with great pomp on Thursday morning for a two-day visit during which the world’s biggest current defence deal is to be discussed.
In a rare declaration in English, Hollande said it was “a great honour for me and for France to visit India” after a 21-gun salute heralded his arrival at the presidential palace.
The Indians have adapted their diplomatic procedures so as to involve Hollande’s partner, Valérie Trierweiller, in the proceedings, the first time an unmarried woman has received the treatment normally accorded to a spouse.
Hollande, who is accompanied by a large delegation of five ministers and about 60 businessmen, was also to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj of the opposition BJP in Delhi.
On Friday he goes to Mumbai to address business leaders.
What will be discussed:
What will not be discussed:
Hollande is less well-known in India than his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited in 2008 and 2010, writes Tirthankar Chanda on RFI’s website in French.
“New Delhi appreciates the fact that he chose India as his first destination in Asia as president, ahead of China,” Chanda says.
But French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg’s threat to nationalise a blast furnace owned by AreclorMittal, a Luxembourg-based company headed by Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, which is set to close, reportedly shocked many Indian bosses.
And France’s early withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan is said to have annoyed Indian foreign policy-makers.
Although France has good relations with India, particularly since the 1990 visit by then-president Jacques Chirac and the latter’s tolerant approach to its 1998 nuclear tests, which were condemned by other major powers.
But trade last year was only 7.5 billion euros, about the same as Franco-Turkish commercial exchanges, and France buys more than it sells.