New Delhi: French President Francois Hollande, who arrived in New Delhi on Thursday to begin his two-day trip, will hope to seal a multi-billion dollar contract with India on Rafale fighter jets. President Pranab Mukherjee hosted a ceremonial reception for Hollande at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"It is a great honour for me and for my friends to visit India. I thank the President for his welcome and we will try to take our relationship to the best level. India is a great democracy," the French President said.
The two countries will hope to pave way for important trade deals and discuss crucial issues. Ban on turbans in French schools is also likely to come up during the French President's trip. "The turban issue must be taken up seriously (during the meet)," said Congress Party MP, Preneet Kaur.
Hollande is also expected to visit Mumbai, where protests against French-assisted Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project is likely to feature in the discussions. Issues of urban development, education, research and development, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy are also expected to be discussed on this trip.
A total of 11 companies from the urban development sector of France are part of the Presidential delegation. These include heavyweights such as Veolia Environnement, Lafarge, Degremont, Vossloh Cogifer, J C Decaux etc.
A number of agreements in the domain are also likely to be signed during the visit. The activities of the French companies in the urban development sphere have started to pick up steam after a rather slow start.
In the recent months, the two giants of water treatment - Suez as well as Veolia - have bagged some key contracts in India, giving a boost to the French presence in the country. To attract the French companies, with their extensive savoir-faire, Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath had visited Paris in September where he signed an MoU to boost cooperation in this domain.
Another major contract likely to be signed during the visit of Hollande relates to the Bangalore Metro where two French players - Alstom and Thales - may win lucrative deals. The Indo-French agreement in the field of Sustainable Urban Development enables cooperation between the two countries in the areas of mass transportation system, water supply and sewerage systems, disposal and treatment of solid waste, green housing and urban planning.
It aims at capacity building of personnel to enhance their capacity for managing the process of urbanization. Under this MoU, it will be possible to exchange information between the government officials and technical experts in India and France as well as public bodies, states, local and regional authorities and also local self governments in the field of sustainable urban development for improving basic urban services.
The two governments have set up a formal mechanism - Indo-French Joint Working Group - to oversee the implementation of this memorandum. It will lay down a programme of action for each year and appraise the achievement there under. Recently, a training on urban planning was organised in Paris for the benefit of urban sector professionals working in different states and organisations.
A total of 17 agreements are expected to be signed Thursday, notably one between the seven Indian IITs and Paris Tech, which brings together leading French research and development institutions. Indian Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal and his French counterpart will also address a day-long session on collaboration between India and France in this key domain.
(With Additional Inputs From IANS)