France, India sign deals worth $16B on first day of Macron visit

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French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, on March 10, 2018. (Reuters)

The two nations also signed a key security accord for the Indian Ocean to counter China’s growing influence in the region during French president Emmanuel Macron’s visit to New Delhi.

French and Indian companies signed contracts worth $16 billion on the first day of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India on Saturday, the French presidency said in a statement.

The deals include a contract for France’s Safran to supply airline Spice Jet with engines, water system modernisation by Suez in the southern city of Davangere and a contract between industrial gas company Air Liquide and Sterlite.

Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a news conference in New Delhi after signing the agreements, also committed to strengthening their partnership on defence and security.

TRT World spoke to New Delhi-based journalist Neha Poonia.

“Whether it’s the environment, naval security and resources, or freedom of navigation and overflight, we are committed to making our partnership stronger on all these fronts,” Modi said.

“We consider France one of our most reliable defence allies.”

He also hailed France’s “commitment” towards making defence and security equipment in India and contributing to Modi’s flagship “Make in India” plan to boost local manufacturing.

Security accord for Indian Ocean

The two nations signed a key security accord for the Indian Ocean to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

“Defence cooperation between the two countries now has a new significance,” said Macron.

Under the deal, India and France will open their naval bases to warships from each other, a move seen as an attempt to undermine China’s territorial ambitions.

“A strong part of our security and the world’s stability is at stake in the Indian Ocean,” Macron said.

“The Indian Ocean, like the Pacific Ocean, cannot become a place of hegemony,” he added in an apparent reference to China.

Modi, who welcomed Macron with a bear hug on his arrival Friday, said the accord was crucial as the Indian Ocean region would play a “very significant role” in the days to come.

“From the ground to the sky, there is no subject on which India and France are not working together,” said Modi.

A technical agreement was also signed on the French-assisted nuclear power project at Jaitapur in western Maharashtra state.

Sources in the French presidency told AFP they were optimistic of a final agreement being signed before the end of the year.

The $9.3 billion framework agreement for six nuclear reactors was signed during a visit to India in 2010 by then president Nicolas Sarkozy.

But the project has since run into stiff opposition from environmentalists concerned about seismic activity in the area and fears about the safety of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Source: Reuters
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