India and the 27-nation European Union began their ninth summit on Monday in this port city of France. The two-day talks will culminate in the signing of a joint statement and a revised plan of action to improve their relationship.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also the chair of the EU, president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana. Manmohan Singh and the three EU leaders will address a joint press conference at the end of their talks.
Sarkozy will then host a lunch for the visiting Indian prime minister.
The two-day ninth India-EU summit, hosted by Sarkozy, opens in Marseilles after that.
Ahead of the summit, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations and the Neighbourhood Policy, struck an upbeat note, saying the EU views India as a vital partner.
India and the EU signed an agreement on civil aviation Sunday night. A similar pact on maritime transport cooperation is expected to be inked between the two countries at the end of the year.
"The importance we attach to the relationship is reflected in the establishment, in 2004, of the EU/India Strategic Partnership. For those less familiar with EU agreements with third countries, Strategic Partnerships are a kind of platinum version - the most comprehensive we can establish," Ferrero-Waldner wrote in an article.
"We are convinced that it will further boost trade between our two economies. We are also setting up new mechanisms for discussing economic issues, with a particular focus on macroeconomics and financial services," she said.
A Trade and Investment Agreement between the two sides is also being negotiated.