$10-bn defence deal to be signed during Hollande's 2-day visit

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 03, 2013 02:36 hrs

With an eye on large business deals, French President Francois Hollande is expected to arrive on a two-day visit to India on February 14. This would be his first visit to India since he took charge as president last year.

During his visit, Hollande would visit New Delhi and Mumbai. He plans to call on President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. To boost economic ties between both countries, he would also meet industry leaders.

Hollande would lead a high-powered delegation comprising senior French Cabinet ministers and business leaders from leading French companies. Among the highlights of his visit would be the signing of the $10-billion deal relating to the purchase of 126 French Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by Dassault Aviation.

During the visit, a much-awaited deal between France’s nuclear conglomerate Areva and Nuclear Power Corporation of India to build European pressurised reactors might also be signed. The protests against the nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, notwithstanding, both sides had already finalised the deal and were expected to sign it soon, officials said.

Since the deal to build the European reactors was announced as part of an agreement between former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 2010, it has faced stiff opposition. The deal also involves the supply of nuclear fuel for 25 years.

“This will be Hollande’s first visit to any Asian country since his election…There had been good discussions on the MMRCA deal and negotiations concerning the Jaitapur nuclear plant are also going on smoothly,” a senior diplomat told Business Standard.

Hollande and Prime Minister Singh had first met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, in June last year. As a precursor to Hollande’s visit, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had, last month, visited France, where he met his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

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