Paris, Feb 13 (IANS) Urban development, education and energy will be at the forefront as French President Francois Hollande arrives in India Wednesday night on a two-day visit to India, his first visit to Asia since his electoral win last May.
A total of 11 companies from the urban development sector of France will be part of the Presidential delegation. These include heavyweights such as Veolia Environnement, Lafarge, Degremont, Vossloh Cogifer, J C Decaux etc.
A number of agreements in the domain are also likely to be signed during the visit. The activities of the French companies in the urban development sphere have started to pick up steam after a rather slow start. In the recent months, the two giants of water treatment - Suez as well as Veolia - have bagged some key contracts in India, giving a boost to the French presence in the country.
To attract the French companies, with their extensive savoir-faire, Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath had visited Paris in September where he signed an MoU to boost cooperation in this domain. A major contract to be signed during the visit of Hollande relates to the Bangalore Metro where two French players - Alstom and Thales - are likely to win lucrative deals.
The Indo-French agreement in the field of Sustainable Urban Development enables cooperation between the two countries in the areas of mass transportation system, water supply and sewerage systems, disposal and treatment of solid waste, green housing and urban planning. It aims at capacity building of personnel to enhance their capacity for managing the process of urbanization. Under this MoU, it will be possible to exchange information between the Government officials and technical experts in India and France as well as public bodies, states, local and regional authorities and also local self Governments in the field of sustainable urban development for improving basic urban services.
The two governments have set up a formal mechanism - Indo-French Joint Working Group - to oversee the implementation of this memorandum. It will lay down a programme of action for each year and appraise the achievement there under. Recently, a training on urban planning was organised in Paris for the benefit of urban sector professionals working in different states and organisations.
Another focus area for India and France during Hollande's visit is the research and development sector.
A total of 17 agreements are expected to be signed Thursday, notably one between the seven Indian IITs and Paris Tech, which brings together leading French research and development institutions. Indian Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal and his French counterpart will also address a day-long session on collaboration between India and France in this key domain.
(Ranvir Nayar can be contacted at email@example.com)