India and France are likely to sign a crucial agreement on maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean region during President Emmanuel Macron's maiden visit to India.
Top French sources told Republic, "We want to cooperate with India in the Indian Ocean and this is one of the key issues on the agenda, expect concrete outcomes during the visit." Elected in May last year, 39-year-old Macron kickstarts his four-day India visit on March 9.
Macron's visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Indo-French strategic partnership. Therefore, when the two leaders sit down for bilateral talks at Hyderabad House they will review the entire strategic relationship which includes counter terrorism, intelligence sharing, defense ties, space cooperation and energy security.
"For France, India is the first strategic partner in the region and we hope this partnership will get a new momentum in light of present security challenges", said a French source.
PM Modi was one of the first world leaders to visit France after Emmanuel Macron assumed office and during this visit the two leaders will look to build a personal rapport. Sources have told Republic that the two will spend a considerable amount of time together. Apart from detailed bilateral discussions, addressing a CEO's forum and inauguration of the international solar alliance summit, the two leaders will take a chopper ride from Varanasi to Mirzapur to inaugurate a solar plant.
Thereafter, the leaders will return to Varanasi for a private lunch on the banks of Ganga and a river cruise as well.
"We perceive India as a global player. In the world today there are limited partners who will share values of rule of law and democracy and we approach India as one of them" said a top French source ahead of the visit.
Officials at the Ministry of External have been working around the clock to roll out the red carpet for President Macron and 25 other heads of state who will be arriving in India this weekend for the first International Solar Alliance Summit.
Sources said, "The Solar Alliance Summit shows that united we stand stronger. It’s a major signal to world powers about the needs of developing countries including access to solar technology."
The French President will be accompanied by 40 French CEO's including the heads of some top defense companies. In 2015, India and France had signed a deal for 36 Rafale fighters in fly-away conditions. French sources refused to confirm or deny whether there would be any follow up offer for more single engine or twin engine fighters to meet the needs of the Indian Air Force.
The President will be accompanied by his wife and First Lady Brigitte Macron who will visit NGO's and participate in certain educational and cultural events. President Macron will also be addressing a knowledge summit and town hall during his four day visit.
— By Parikshit Luthra