Six months after being elected, French President Emmanuel Macron is set to make his first visit to India from December 8 to 10, sources said here on Wednesday. He will hold official talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time, although they met during the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July this year.
India is preparing to host him as the chief guest at the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Summit, which is scheduled to be held on December 9. This ties in with India’s public commitment to the Paris climate agreement despite US pulling out. The ISA, a coalition of 121 solar-rich countries to address energy needs, will become a legal entity during the summit with the adoption of a legal instrument.
Macron’s first visit to India as President comes less than two years after then French President Francois Hollande visited India in January 2016 as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
While Macron, 37, will come to Delhi, South Block is discussing the possibility of hosting him in another city as well. So far, he has visited the US, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Luxembourg, Morocco, Romania, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Mali and has made three visits to Germany. He has not yet travelled to Asia.
Last week, Philippe Etienne, diplomatic advisor to Macron, called on Modi and briefed him on strengthening the ties between India and France in all sectors, including defence and security. Modi told Etienne that defence and security are two important pillars of the India-France Strategic Partnership, and appreciated the growing bilateral engagement in all sectors.
The deal to supply 36 Rafale aircraft, announced in January 2016 and inked in September 2016, is expected to be one of the major points of discussion between the two leaders during the visit.
The two sides will also review the progress on the landmark agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, signed between India and France on September 30, 2008 during the visit of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to France. Subsequently, during then French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to India in December 2010, the General Framework Agreement and the Early Works Agreement between NPCIL and Areva for implementation of EPR NPP Units at Jaitapur were signed.
Officials said a nuclear plant in France will go on stream next year, which will be a model for India to decide on buying French nuclear reactors for the Jaitapur site in Maharashtra.
Sources said the two sides will also hold discussions on economic and strategic ties, smart cities, renewable energy and other aspects. “With Europe going through transformation, following Brexit and rise of extremism, Macron’s visit will be key to understand the French perspective on recent developments in the world,” said a source.