NEW DELHI: On a four-day visit to India, French President Emmanuel Macron began his official engagements this morning, when he was given a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi. “I think we (India and France) have very good chemistry. Our two great democracies have a historic relationship,” President Macron said at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The French President arrived last night in Delhi and is accompanied by his wife Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron, businessmen and top officials. President Macron’s visit is aimed at strengthening the bilateral economic, political and strategic dimension of our engagement, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Our aim is to begin a new era in ties between our two countries. For France, India is our priority and has always been. India has been France’s first ally in the region. It is the entry point for France in the region, and my aim is to make France the entry point for India to Europe,” Mr Macron said outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He later visited the Raj Ghat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi received French President Emmanuel Macron last night at the Delhi airport. PM Modi greeted Mr Macron with a hug and shook hands with his wife. “Welcome to India, President @EmmanuelMacron! Your visit will add great strength to the strategic partnership between India and France,” tweeted PM Modi.
President Macron will meet Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and hold a bilateral with PM Modi at noon that will be followed by delegation-level talks and signing of various deals.
Agreements on civil nuclear cooperation, solar energy and transfer of electric mobility for Indian Railways and metro lines linked to smart city projects — for cities like Pune and Nagpur — are on the cards. Space cooperation is on the agenda as is a larger framework on naval cooperation. Around 40 business leaders are accompanying the French president.
PM Modi and President Macron will co-chair the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), tomorrow. The ISA is a flagship Indian initiative launched by PM Modi and the French president on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference in 2015. This meeting will be of great significance against the backdrop of the United States, under President Trump, pulling out of the Paris accord. India and France have pledged to achieve reduction in emissions as committed at Paris.
“The ISA is a unique effort that brings the world together to harness solar energy and create a cleaner as well as greener future, said PM Modi in a tweet. Sources in the French government said Mr Macron’s visit was decided in a way that coincides with the solar summit “as both leaders are very invested in clean and renewal energy.”
President Ram Nath Kovind will host a dinner this evening for the leaders of 24 nations who will attend the conference, including Mr Macron.
On a day Mr Macron arrived in India, the Congress said there was new information to suggest that India was paying far more than countries like Qatar and Egypt for the 36 Rafale jets being acquired by the Indian Air Force. According to the Congress, “India is clearly paying an extra price of Rs. 350.90 crore per aircraft or Rs.12,632 crore for 36 aircraft.” The BJP hit back, saying the Congress was “misleading the country over a sensitive issue like defence”.
The last visit of a French President to India was in January, 2016, when President Francois Hollande was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations. PM Modi had visited France in June last year, immediately after Mr Macron was elected President.
Mr Macron will also pay a visit to PM Modi’s constituency Varanasi. Both leaders will take a boat ride on the Ganga, which will include a private lunch. They will also visit Mirzapur to inaugurate a 100 MW solar power plant. President Macron and his wife will also visit the Taj Mahal.