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Modi-Macron talks: Boosting cooperation in defence, trade, students' mobility on agenda


A hoarding has been put up in Jaipur, Rajasthan, ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the 'Pink City' on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)

NEW DELHI (PTI): Shoring up cooperation in areas of defence and security, trade, climate change, clean energy and mobility of students and professionals is set to be the focus of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron in Jaipur on Thursday.

Macron, who will grace the Republic Day celebrations at the Kartavya Path, will kick-start his two-day trip to India from Jaipur where he will visit the Pink City's stunning hilltop fort of Amber, the iconic Hawa Mahal and the astronomical observation site of Jantar Mantar.

The French President's visit is taking place as top negotiators from the two sides are looking at finalising two mega defence deals for India's procurement of 26 Rafale-M (marine version) fighter jets and three French-designed Scorpene submarines.

It is understood that significant progress has been made in the negotiations including on price and various other technical aspects for the procurement of the mega key platforms.

"This reciprocal invitation to national day celebrations is unprecedented, and shows the deep mutual trust and unwavering friendship underpinning Indo-French ties," a French readout said.

PM Modi was the guest of honour at the prestigious Bastille Day Parade in Paris in July last year.

"President Macron's visit will consolidate the ambitious renewal of the France-India strategic partnership that the two leaders decided on in Paris on July 14 through the 'Horizon 2047 Roadmap'," the readout said.

President Macron will be accompanied by a ministerial delegation comprising Stéphane Sejourné (Europe and Foreign Affairs), Sébastien Lecornu (Armed Forces) and Rachida Dati (Culture), a business delegation along with eminent personalities, including ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Twenty-five years after the launch of their strategic partnership, France and India have embarked on new common goals for the next 25 years, the readout said.

"Accordingly, President Macron's talks with Prime Minister Modi will seek to advance our cooperation and finalise new initiatives under the three pillars of the Roadmap," it added.

On the security ties, the readout said France and India have developed a "trust-based" cooperation aimed at strengthening strategic autonomy that is illustrated by close cooperation in the defence sector, including advanced platforms and technologies.

It said the two countries are also key partners in contributing to international peace and security, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, where we implement a "joint strategy".

"This visit will seek to advance common initiatives to respond to the key challenges of our times, including climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty eradication, and the changes brought by new technologies," it said.

On people-to-people engagement, Paris said Macron's visit will stress France's commitment to creating more opportunities for Indian students, artists, investors and tourists.

"Special focus will be given to initiatives fostering student mobility, in support of President Macron's announcement that France seeks to welcome 30,000 Indian students by 2030," it said.

"Business ties and cross-investments will also be promoted during the visit, under the banner of France's "Make It Iconic" nation-branding campaign, which has targeted India as a priority country," it added.

In his nearly six-hour stay in Jaipur, Macron will also join Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a road show before the two leaders hold wide-ranging talks at a luxury hotel on all key aspects of India-France ties and various geopolitical upheavals.

The PMO said in a statement that PM Modi will welcome Macron at around 5.30 pm, and the two leaders will visit various places of cultural and historical significance in the city, including Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal and Albert Hall Museum.

The French President's aircraft is scheduled to land at Jaipur airport at 2.30 pm on Thursday and he will depart for Delhi at around 8.50 pm, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.

The roadshow is scheduled to start at the Jantar Mantar area at 6 pm while Modi and Macron are set to begin their talks at 7.15 pm.

In their talks, Modi and Macron are also expected to deliberate on expanding maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, the situation in the Red Sea, the Hamas-Israel conflict and the war in Ukraine.

Macron is scheduled to leave for New Delhi from Jaipur at 8:50 pm. On Friday, Macron will witness the Republic Day celebrations as the Chief Guest.

A 95-member marching contingent and a 33-member band contingent from France will take part in the parade.

Two Rafale fighter jets and an Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft of the French air force will also feature in the celebrations.

The French marching contingent from the French Foreign Legion features six Indians.

President Macron will also attend the 'At Home' reception by President Droupadi Murmu at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

He is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Murmu at 7.10 pm.

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