With Modi arriving in Paris, India and France set to push Rafale fighter jet deal

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Apr 10, 2015 09:02 IST

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi's special aircraft landed in the crisp summer air of Paris on Thursday evening, his first visit to Europe after coming to power appeared set to repeat the 'rockstar' impact created by his previous visits to the United States and Australia.

The Indian PM was received by Thierry Braillart, minister of state for sports ‎of France.

During his four-day stay, Modi will hold talks with French President Francois Hollande and meet business leaders. His tour will focus on boosting trade and economic ties, including in defence and railways.

PM Modi is expected to use his three-nation tour of France, Germany and Canada to promote his 'Make in India' campaign, designed to encourage greater foreign investment in the Indian economy. In his first interview to an Indian newspaper since becoming the PM, Modi said the three countries were major economies and had great relevance to the development and growth process of India. "I expect my visit to be helpful in advancing our Make in India initiative."

France and Germany may not have the same large Indian diaspora as the US and Australia, but Modi's itinerary reflects his familiar focus on economic diplomacy combined with strumming nationalist chords among the people. Modi is scheduled to reach out to less-known Indian diaspora in five overseas French territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana (south America), Reunion and Mayotte.

After an official welcome at Invalides on Friday morning, Modi's busy schedule includes two round table discussions with French business leaders on infrastructure development and defence, followed by engagements at the National Assembly and Unesco.

He will then hold talks with President Hollande, and the two leaders will then embark on a boat ride on the Seine — termed 'naav pe charcha' by foreign secretary S Jaishankar - and end the day with a banquet.

During the trip , the Prime Minister will also visit the World War-I memorial and pay tributes to about 10,000 Indians who lost their lives while fighting alongside France. He will also visit the Airbus facility and French space agency office.

Modi's visit was widely noted in the Paris press on Thursday, with the mass circulation Le Figaro publishing an interview, in which he said his goal was to "completely eliminate poverty in a generation".

Modi's departure from New Delhi coincided with international ratings agency Moody's upgrading India's rating from 'stable' to 'positive'.

Le Monde noted that France had 'turned the page' after adopting a hands-off approach towards Modi due to the 2002 Gujarat riots, while economist Johanna Melka was quoted by Le Voix du Monde as saying that Modi had so far succeeded in introducing at least two major measures.

"He managed to pass two laws that are relatively large. The first allows to increase the quota of foreign direct investment from 26% in the insurance sector to 49% and the second to develop investments in the rail sector, investments can be up to 100 %", he said.

Jean Luc-Racine, CNRS senior fellow, told HT that climate change will be a key issue in official talks beginning Friday.

"Another issue is related with the climate change COP 21 conference to be held in Paris in December: a very important item on the French diplomatic agenda. India has not yet articulated her self-defined target of reducing CO2 emissions, and calls for more money for transfer of green technology. Delhi is expected to be one of the most demanding negotiator at COP21," he said.

After wrapping up the France leg of his tour, Modi will head to Germany. In the third and last leg of his tour, Modi will travel to Canada, marking the first standalone visit by an Indian Prime Minister in over 42 years.

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