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Hollande ‘no travelling salesman’ on India visit

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-02-18

French President François Hollande told FRANCE 24 on Thursday that his visit to India is not only to facilitate lucrative business contracts between the two countries, but also to build cultural and political ties with the world’s largest democracy.

India and France are speeding up negotiations in a multibillion-dollar deal to build French fighter jets for the Indian air force on February 14 during a visit by French President François Hollande to New Delhi.

Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks in the capital that also focused on defense, regional security and cooperation in space exploration. A $9.3-billion agreement for French energy giant Areva to construct the world’s biggest civilian nuclear power complex in western India was also being fine-tuned.

INDIA SIGNS EUROCOPTER DEAL

Eurocopter signed a deal on Thursday to sell 50 civilian helicopters to Indian firm Aviators, the French government said.

Eurocopter is a unit of aerospace and defence company EADS , which is also competing for a contract to sell 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters to India.

(REUTERS)

But despite the numerous contracts up for discussion, including the purchase by India of 126 Rafale fighter jets for $11 billion, President Hollande stressed that his visit was a diplomatic one.

“There will be contracts signed by companies,” he told FRANCE 24 in an exclusive interview. “But it’s not the state that signs contracts. We can give our support, we can accompany them, we can give an idea of what's on our mind, but from there on it's the companies, using their technological capacities, and the quality of their products and also their market savvy that land the contracts.”

Hollande stressed France’s “special relationship” with India, whose vast market for energy could prove massively lucrative to the world’s biggest nuclear producer. France is already one of the largest suppliers of nuclear fuel to India.

“I do sense a connection between France and India,” Hollande said. “India expects much of France – not just in economic terms, but also culturally and politically. [...] We complement each other very significantly, because we can come together in the field of technology and in politics we can shape the world,” he said.

Mali at play

In December, India and France came together to co-sponsor UN Security Council Resolution 2085, which led to the authorisation of the deployment of African-led forces in Mali.

During that intervention France was able to showcase its Rafale fighter jets, which were employed in rapid air strikes to drive out Islamist militants in the whirlwind offensive in the west African nation.

On Thursday, Hollande complimented the fighter jets but said that India would gain its own confidence in the expensive planes.

“If we are to talk specifically about Rafale fighter jets, I can say what I think of the plane, how satisfied the French military are with it,” he said. “I know that it is cutting-edge technology, but ultimately the political goal is to gain India's confidence in the Rafale.”

Hollande also stressed that his objective in India differed from that of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited the country four years ago and was accused of taking on the role of a travelling salesman.

“I don't think the president's role is to be a representative of business,” he said. “It is to ensure that, by means of the good relationships and the environment we're able to create, by the trust we can inspire, also by the presence of companies – because I am not here alone, I am here with ministers but also with company CEOs – we can facilitate the signing of contracts.”

Hollande and Singh witnessed the signing of four cooperation agreements on Thursday on higher education, railways, cultural exchanges and space exploration.

Hollande’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler, told reporters in New Delhi that she wants to become a children's champion following a visit to a French-run orphanage.

Date created : 2013-02-14

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