French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in New Delhi on Friday night on a four-day India visit and was received at the airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a special gesture.
IMAGE: Putting protocol aside, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recieves French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at AFS Palam in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI
Macron was accompanied by his wife Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron, besides senior ministers from his Cabinet.
"Welcome to India, President @EmmanuelMacron! Your visit will add great strength to the strategic partnership between India and France. I look forward to our talks tomorrow," Modi tweeted after receiving Macron at the airport.
During the visit, the two countries would look to boost ties, especially in the areas of maritime security and counter-terrorism.
An agreement on the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, which is being built with French assistance, is expected to be signed during the visit, sources said.
Stepping up cooperation in the Indian Ocean region will be one of the top issues that will be discussed by Macron and Prime Minister Modi during delegation-level talks on Saturday.
"France has particularly supported India's perspective on terror in South Asia. We are seeing convergence in new areas, particularly maritime security, counter-terrorism and renewable energy," K Nagraj Naidu, joint secretary (Europe-west), told reporters.
Besides defence, cooperation in the areas of nuclear energy and space are the other pillars of the strategic partnership between India and France.
"In the area of space, India and France have a matured engagement and we would like to take it to a new level," Naidu said.
The Indo-French cooperation in the area of space is more than five-decades-old.
IMAGE: PM Modi welcomes the French President with a warm hug. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo
Besides conventional areas, thrust would also be on renewable energy, high-speed train and stepping cooperation in trade.
The bilateral trade between India and France for the period from April 2016 to March 2017 was USD 10.95 billion. France is the 9th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of USD 6.09 billion from April 2000 to October 2017.
After holding delegation-level talks with Modi, Macron will take part in a Town Hall and have an interactive session, in which nearly 300 students from different institutions are expected to participate.
On the same day, he will also take part in a Knowledge Summit which will be attended by more than 200 academicians from both sides.
On March 11, President Macron will attend the International Solar Alliance Summit, an initiative mooted by France and India.
The ISA Summit, expected to be attended by several heads of the states and governments, is likely to focus on concrete projects. On the same day, he will also visit Taj Mahal in Agra.
President Macron will also visit Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Modi, on March 12.
He, along with Modi, will inaugurate a solar plant in Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur.