With French President Francois Hollande set to arrive in India to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations next week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is getting ready to host him in Chandigarh Sunday and push for French investment in his government’s Smart Cities project.
Hollande, according to sources, will arrive on January 24 and leave on January 26 after attending the at-home function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Hollande, who last visited India in February 2013, will have defence, counter-terrorism and solar alliance on the agenda this time, officials said. During the visit, Modi and Hollande will inaugurate the international secretariat of the International Solar Alliance, which is being housed at the institute of solar energy at Gurgaon’s Gual Pahari.
After landing in Chandigarh, Hollande will visit the most frequented tourist spots of the city accompanied by PM Modi. The city’s famous Rock Garden will also be a part of the tour.
Before leaving for the national capital in the evening on January 24, both leaders will address the CEOs forum in Chandigarh. A number of business-to-business agreements are likely to be signed, sources revealed.
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 the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Later, he will visit Rajghat to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi. The talks with PM Modi, both in restricted format and delegation level, are scheduled for the same day, with a number of agreements likely to be inked after the discussions. The day will end with President Pranab Mukherjee hosting a banquet for him.
On Republic Day, Hollande will attend the parade as chief guest, which will be followed by a private lunch with French and Indian celebrities. Before leaving for Paris, he will also attend the at-home programme at the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Mughal Gardens. 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, with earlier such visits being in 1976, 1980, 1998 and 2008. Sources added that the French contingent marching at the Republic Day parade will be something unique. India, too, had sent its troops at French national day parade in July 2009.
The visit comes almost nine months after Modi visited France, in his first bilateral visit to Europe. During the visit, 19 pacts were signed encompassing diverse areas of cooperation such as nuclear energy, space, railways, conservation of cultural heritage, science and technology, sports, tourism, human exchanges, renewable energy and twinning of historical monuments. While a deal on Rafale fighters is expected, officials said that last round of negotiations were still underway.