Enhancing cooperation in the key areas of defence, nuclear energy, counter-terrorism and trade will be focus of French President Francois Hollande's first visit in New Delhi but USD 10-billion deal for Rafale fighter aircraft will not be inked during his two-day stay starting Thursday.
Hollande, who will be on a state visit to India, his first stop in Asia after becoming president, will be accompanied by his companion Valerie Trierweiler and a high-level delegation comprising his cabinet colleagues and 45-strong business leaders.
The French President will hold wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on international, regional and bilateral issues such as situation in Mali where French forces are fighting terrorists.
"With upgradation of the relationship to strategic partnership in 1998, the relationship has become multifaceted and symbiotic in areas such as defence, civil nuclear energy, space and counter terrorism. There have been regular high-level exchanges at the head of state/head of government levels," ministry of external affairs said in a statement.
Referring to Hollande's visit, French Ambassador Fracois Richier said "there would be no signing of contract for supply of Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft" during it. He was speaking at a panel discussion on India-France relations.
However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris that the talks with India to finalise the purchase of warplanes were "looking up".
Dassault Aviation's Rafale aircraft was shortlisted by India early last year as it choice for procuring 126 Medium-Multirole Combat Aircraft. The French fighter had edged out five other aircraft including American F-16 and F-18 to bag the USD 10-billion contract.
Diplomatic sources also ruled out inking of a contract for nuclear reactors at Jaitapur.
Asked about France's view on sharing of the enrichment and reprocessing technology with India in view of the ban on such transfer to non-NPT signatory countries, the
French diplomatic sources said, "we have a full civil nuclear cooperation with India....It does not exclude anything."
The sources also talked about the on-going dialogue between France and India on the "understanding and impact" of country's domestic nuclear liability law on the French companies. The French nuclear giant Areva is committed to building six reactors at Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
Besides defence and nuclear energy, the other key issues which will be discussed during the French president's trip will include cooperation in infrastructure development, education, research and development, mobility and migration pharmaceuticals and renewable energy. The two sides are also expected to ink a pact in mobility and migration aimed at easing travel restrictions on Indian professionals to France.
"Today our relations are growing fast in all sectors of contemporary relevance with wide ranging contacts in economic, industrial and commercial spheres....France has consistently supported India's growing role in the international fora and the two countries have regular consultations on global and regional issues of importance," MEA said.
Asked about reports that some Sikh groups are planning to protest against Hollande's visit in view of ban on wearing turbans in France, the sources said, "it is regretful" if any group is planning to take out protest and added that French side was always ready to explain their views on the issue.
On 15 February, the French president will deliver a lecture at the NehruMemorialMuseum and Library after which he will honour Professor Amartya Sen with Commandeur de la legion d’Honneur.
Thereafter, the French president will visit Mumbai, where he will have a meeting with the governor of Maharashtra and participate in a business conference.