Modi, Macron ink 14 pacts to boost India-France ties; cos sign $16-bn deals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday signed 14 agreements covering a number of areas from security, nuclear energy and protection of classified information to education, environment, urban development and railways. 

Barbs exchanged between the Opposition and the government over the off-the-shelf purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft seem not to have affected the bilateral talks. “Liberty, equality and fraternity not only echo in France, but are also deeply embedded in India’s Constitution,” Modi said at a joint press conference afterwards.

Macron was accompanied by a 40-member business delegation. Deals worth $16 billion were signed. These include a contract for France’s Safran to supply engines to SpiceJet, a water system modernisation project by Suez in Davangere, Karnataka, and a contract between Air Liquide and Sterlite.

Macron’s state visit, during which topics are discussed according to a pre-agreed agenda, resulted in progress on the civil nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. The deal for this was signed between the two countries in 2010, but has faced severe problems in acquiring land, with a local movement against it. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s coalition partner Shiv Sena has been leading the movement. 

The French president said he considered India its strategic partner in South Asia and wanted to be its partner in Europe.

“Civil nuclear, space, and defence had traditionally have been the tripod of this engagement, but in recent years, we are seeing greater convergence in new areas, particularly maritime security, counter-terrorism, and renewable energy,” said a spokesman from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Macron also praised the Make in India initiative. Nearly 1,000 French companies have invested about $7 billion in India till now. French research and development institutions were working in high-tech areas, including space and nuclear programmes. 

The French Development Agency (AFD) is helping India finance a semi high-speed railway line between New Delhi and Chandigarh. Technical discussions are on at present. 

Modi and Macron will co-chair the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) on Sunday. The ISA is a flagship Indian initiative, launched on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference in 2015. This meeting is very important as the United States under President Donald Trump has pulled out of the Paris accord. India and France have pledged to achieve reduction in emissions, as committed in Paris. 
Macron is also scheduled to visit Agra and Modi’s constituency, Varanasi.

The two nations also acknowledged the need for engagement between the citizens of the two nations. Modi said, “We understand that for the better future of our bilateral relations, people-to-people relation is the most important tool.”

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