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French President Emmanuel Macron’s four day visit to India, beginning on Friday would not be a “business as usual visit” as he along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to give his nod to a new framework for bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

According to sources in the capital, the framework could reaffirm their commitment to a “free, open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based architecture in the Indo-Pacific” as well as focus on countering piracy after talks in New Delhi on Saturday, when the visiting dignitary sits with PM Modi for official talks.

During his four-day ternary, French President will attend the founding ceremony of the International Solar Alliance on Sunday in New Delhi and inaugurate a solar energy project in Uttar Pradesh. Moreover he will visit Varanasi, the constituency of PM Narendra Modi on Monday.   The French President will also be meeting a cross-section of Indian students as well as academics during his stay in India.

A source close to the high-profile visit said one of the important aspect “which will be important in this visit will be our strategic partnership. India was France’s first strategic partner in the region. And this visit is going to coincide with an important milestone… the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the (India-France) strategic partnership.”

The source further said, “It is an important time to recall history but it is also an important time to give a new momentum to the partnership and that is what we are aiming at. That’s the reason why we want to put special emphasis on the Indian Ocean.”

Meanwhile,  French sources  have reportedly told on Wednesday that it would not be a “business as usual visit” and asserted that apart from conventional areas of cooperation such as nuclear energy and defence, the thrust would be on boosting ties in maritime and space fields.

However, French sources did not say whether the Indian and France would ink a pact in the nuclear energy sector.  India officials told PTI that an agreement to expedite the Jaitapur nuclear plant was expected to be signed during the visit. France has also been strongly supporting India’s bid for membership of the export-control regime Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Special emphasis would be on strengthening cooperation in the Indian Ocean during the talks between the two leaders. France has strong economic and military interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

In November, officials from India, Japan, Australia and the US held talks on increasing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, with an eye on China. Despite Japan’s invitation to France and Britain to join the group none of them shown active interest in the proposal.

France has two million citizens living in the Indian Ocean region, has territories in the Indian Ocean region as well as economic interests and naval bases. The source in New Delhi said: “I would say we are facing similar challenges, we are sharing same vision and priorities and we very strongly believe there is room for very strong bilateral cooperation”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Paris in July last year when attended UN climate change conference and met the youngest President in Europe Emmanuel Macron. This was his first visit to a European country as Prime Minister of the country.

India and France will join heads of state and government from more than 25 countries to seek cheaper technologies and easier sources of funding at the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

The ISA secretariat is organizing the National Focal Point (NFP) Conclave from 10 to 18 March for developing road maps for Solar Energy Programs of individual ISA member countries.

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