Guard of honour for PM Modi in Paris; official talks to begin

  • Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Apr 10, 2015 15:26 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his visit to France on Friday with an impressive guard of honour by the elite Republican Guards at the Hotel National Des Invalides in Paris.

Modi was accompanied by French foreign minister Laurent Fabius as the band played the national anthems of both countries in the courtyard of the 18th century building overseen by a statue of Napoleon.

The first day's schedule for Modi's trip includes two round-table meetings with French CEOs on infrastructure and defence technology.

He will also meet French President Francois Hollande before addressing the UNESCO.

Later, Hollande will accompany Modi on a boat ride on the Seine, billed as a 'naav pe charcha' (chat on a boat).

Modi's trip to France holds much significance as both countries are hopeful of a breakthrough in the multi-million dollar Rafale combat jet deal, which has been pending for years.

This issue, along with trade, will be high on the agenda of discussions between the two leaders amid India's keen interest to get French companies to participate in the 'Make in India' programme. Terrorism, against the backdrop of an attack here three months ago, will also be discussed.

"India and France are strategic partners. In this context, the issues of civil nuclear and defence cooperation will be discussed…We expect movement on these issues," external affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

"There will be substantive discussions on defence and nuclear issues. Wait for the outcome," he said.

Akbaruddin said India expects French companies to participate in the 'Make in India' programme in defence and civil nuclear energy, "where India can make some nuclear installations with France."

A nuclear project in Maharashtra's Jaitapur, where French company Areva is to set up six reactors with a total generation capacity of 10,000 MW, has been stuck for long because of differences over the cost of electricity to be generated.

Similarly, the deal to buy 126 Rafale fighter planes has been deadlocked because of differences over price.

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