Talks on terror, climate change and smart cities will be the highlights of the upcoming visit of President Francois Hollande, French Ambassador Francois Richier said on Friday even as he dismissed a “letter threat” to the visit as the work of probably an “excited gentleman”.
He lauded the security forces in Delhi for working with French officials closely to prevent any attack on the visiting delegation but said it was “sad” that the threat letter had been leaked.
On the visit of Hollande starting this Sunday, the ambassador said the focus that he foresees is mostly in three domains.
“Highlight will be terrorism in view of the situation we are in at present, state of emergency, military operations in Syria, Iraq and in Africa. Situation in India,” he said.
Richier said both France and India want to defend common interests and values.
“This is an occasion not only to remind everybody but to pull certain number of steps in this direction of combating terrorism and this will be high on the agenda,” he said talking to reporters at his residence.
Describing the security forces in Delhi as very competent, Richier said he was grateful to the security apparatus in the capital for working closely with the French to prevent any action on the visiting delegation. “It is working very well. They are very competent”.
Asked about the threat letter against Hollande’s visit to India received by the French consulate in Bengaluru on Thursday, he said, “I think it is sad that it has leaked. We are looking into this.”
He said the French authorities are “accustomed” to having received leaflets like that.
“We receive plenty of them. Generally, it is to create disorder, to raise the attention of the media. They have never proved to be true threats,” he said.
However, he noted that they are still looking into the latest letter received by them.
“I cannot say it is not a true one but there is nothing at the moment which leads us to believe that it is real threat. That is another excited gentleman... it is not a specific threat.
“It is a paper which claims to be on behalf of a terror organisation. But I cannot say that there is a threat here. It may very simply be the kind of paper that we receive very regularly from some people with strange mind who want to create a media event. That is probably the reason why it is leaked,” he said.
Richier said that French are anyway under threat across the world.
Asked if there will be any development on the civil nuclear cooperation front, the French envoy said Areva was being taken over by Électricité de France, which operates 60 nuclear reactors in France.
“So now EDF will be in the lead for this kind of operation. That is creating a change in the way nuclear negotiations are being conducted. But that is the main development which will probably been taken into account,” he said.
Richier said that the second focus will be climate change and both sides will follow up on the decisions taken at the Paris climate conference.
“We will also work on energy storage. We will, of course, have an element of solar. We will have also announcement in the field of space. There will be a new project of space programme in relation to observation and prevention of climate change. We will have project in the wind energy. Investment will be announced,” he said, adding there will also be cooperation in marine biotechnology.
Hollande will be arriving in Chandigarh on January 24 where he is expected to be received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The two leaders will hold extensive talks a day after during which ways to strengthen counter-terror cooperation in the aftermath of Paris and Pathankot terror strikes will figure prominently.
Hollande will be the fifth French leader to be a Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations -- the maximum number from any country so far.
Earlier, leaders from that country had presided in 1976, 1980, 1998 and 2008. Significantly, for the first time, French soldiers will march down the Rajpath on Republic Day along with Indian troops, a first for any foreign army.
Accompanied by a high-level delegation, Hollande will be landing in Chandigarh, which was designed by Swiss-French architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, also known as Le Corbusier between 1950s and 1960s, and will be accompanied by Modi during the sightseeing to most frequented tourist spots in the city including ‘The Rock Garden’.
The two will also attend a CEO’s forum before leaving for the national capital in the evening of January 24. A number of business-to-business agreements are likely to be signed during the CEOs forum.
On January 25, the French president’s engagements will begin with a meeting of business leaders and CEOs. He will also be given a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan. After that, he will visit Rajghat to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
The same day he will have talks with Modi, both in restricted format and at the delegation level. A number of agreements are expected to be signed following the talks.
Both Modi and Hollande will also attend the foundation laying ceremony of the Interim Secretariat of International Solar Alliance at Gurgaon.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Congress President Sonia Gandhi will call on Hollande.
On the evening of January 25, President Pranab Mukherjee will host a banquet for him at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
On January 26, Hollande will grace the Republic Day parade as the chief guest. In the noon, he will have a private lunch with French and Indian celebrities. He will also attend the At Home programme at MughalGardens of Rashtrapati Bhawan before leaving for Paris.
In Chandigarh, Modi and Hollande will visit the famous Rock Garden, Capitol Complex and the archaeological excavation site at ArtsMuseum.
They will spend close to 15 minutes at each of the three sites before reaching a private hotel where they will be at the concluding ceremony of a business summit, said Vijay Dev, advisor to the administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh.
“Chandigarh has earned a reputation of being a world-class city and the French president will get the best of the city,” said Dev.
During the visit, France is likely to sign a memorandum of understanding with Chandigarh for helping it develop as a smart city, official sources said.
Last year, France had committed to help three Indian cities -- Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry -- to be developed as smart cities. Chandigarh is competing for making into the list of first 20 cities to be picked by the Ministry of Urban Development for funding in year 2016-17 under the SmartCity project.
Meanwhile, security forces, including from neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana, besides central paramilitary forces, have been deployed in strength in the city ahead of the high profile visit.
Unlike Modi’s last visit to the city, this time there will be “no restrictions” on the movement of people in Chandigarh, said Dev.