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President Hollande’s visit to India this week is dominated by trade issues, including a $12 billion deal for Rafale fighter jets, nuclear energy and potential agreements for new metro lines.
Hollande will be accompanied by five ministers including Laurent Fabius, foreign minister and Jean-Yves Le Drian, defence minister.
The chiefs of more than 60 French companies will also join him for the two-day trip and both Indian and French officials have outlined the importance of the trip.
Rakesh Sood, India’s ambassador to Paris, stressed that Hollande had chosen the emerging Asian superpower for his first visit outside Europe and French-speaking Africa since taking office.
A French official said the trip was aimed at reinforcing the “strategic Indo-French partnership launched 15 years ago.”
Top of the agenda is a giant deal that France’s Dassault Aviation hopes to close to sell 126 Rafale jets to India this year, although it will not be signed during the trip.
“Things are moving very fast and we hope that a contract will be finalised as soon as possible but it will not take place during this visit,” a French diplomatic source said.
Hollande will be followed days later in Delhi by David Cameron, the British prime minister, who has lobbied on behalf of the Eurofighter, a rival jet made by a partly British consortium which is ready to step in if Dassault fails.
Under the proposed Rafale deal, the first 18 aircraft are to be made in France with the remainder to be produced under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the state-run Indian aerospace behemoth.
Another important project that will dominate the trip is a contract for Areva to construct a nuclear power station in the western coastal state of Maharashtra.
The project, signed in December 2010, is for two European pressurised reactors (EPR) at Jaitapur 400 kilometres south of Mumbai, with an option for four more reactors.
India-France bilateral trade had grown by 6 per cent to €7.46 billion.
The European country is the 9th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of approximately $3 billion during the period April 2000 to June 2012.