With warmth in Chandigarh, India, France get down to business (Intro Roundup)

Chandigarh, Jan 24 (IANS) India and France committed themselves to closer ties, especially in business and combating terrorism, just hours after French President Francois Hollande began his three-day visit to India here on Sunday and Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke protocol to welcome him.

Addressing the India-France Business Summit, Modi said India and France had huge potential to work together in various fields.

Modi pitched for investment in India by French companies, saying India had a lot to offer in terms of skilled workforce and as a market for French products.

“We want to work closely with France… The world has accepted India as a good investment destination. India’s talent and the manufacturing (skills) of France can achieve a lot. The trust and friendship with France is an asset for us,” Modi said in his address.

“India is the fastest growing economy in the world. We have the labour and the market for your products,” Modi said at the India-France chief executives meeting along with Hollande, according to a tweet by external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup.

Hollande, who will be the chief guest at India’s 67th Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Tuesday, said: “Chandigarh is a very beautiful city… It’s a gift from Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier to India. I welcome the idea of being called here.”

He said France will sign an inter-governmental agreement with India to clear the way for the long-awaited $9 billion deal to sell French-built Rafale warplanes to India.

“The idea we have in mind is the one of an inter-governmental agreement between the two countries in order to allow the firms involved to go all the way,” Hollande told journalists.

“It is this inter-governmental agreement that will allow a commercial transaction,” he said.

“India needs them and France has shown that it has the world’s best aircraft. The commercial contract can only come after the inter-governmental accord… which will be discussed during my visit,” Hollande said.

“Had a fruitful meeting with CEOs in Chandigarh,” Modi tweeted, adding that he had met Hollande five times in the past year.

Sixteen agreements, including one to develop Chandigarh as a smart city, were signed.

“Defence, green economy, smart cities, infrastructure, transportation, water and financial sector on the agenda of the Indo-French CEO’s Forum,” Vikas Swarup tweeted.

CEOs of 25 Indian and French companies attended the business summit.

Modi earlier received Hollande at the Rock Garden, after the president flew into the city created by French architect Le Corbusier to start his three-day official visit to India.

“Glad to welcome Hollande in the city built by the great Le Corbusier,” Modi tweeted.

At the Rock Garden, Modi and Hollande greeted each other with a warm handshake and a hug on a wintry afternoon.

Both took a round of a section of the Rock Garden, which was created entirely from waste material by its founder Nek Chand.

They then proceeded towards the Capitol Complex, designed and built by Corbusier, and the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Sector 10.

Earlier, Hollande was received at the Chandigarh airport by Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher besides senior officers.

“A warm welcome to Hollande. We are honoured and delighted to have him as chief guest for Republic Day celebrations,” Modi said earlier. “We will build on the ground covered during our previous interactions.”

Hollande was given a colourful welcome at the airport by ‘Gidda’ and ‘Bhangra’ dancers of Punjab.

The French president headed from the airport to Hotel Taj, where he stayed (in between) during his nearly six-hour stopover in the city.

Chandigarh was put under maximum security cover ahead of the arrival of the French president.

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