New Delhi: French President Emmanuel Macron will visit India early next year, seeking to boost bilateral cooperation in defence and clean energy sectors and enhance people-to-people ties, its envoy here today said.
Ambassador of France to India Alexandre Ziegler said the date has not been finalised, but Macron’s visit would coincide with the International Solar Alliance Summit (ISA).
“We have the traditional pillar to our relationship, which is the strategic partnership and defence.
“We have to focus on challenges that we will be facing in coming years. Terrorism is a major threat for both the countries…. But also on cooperation in the Indian Ocean, that is something which, we are also closely working on,” Ziegler said on the sidelines of an event here.
The envoy said the two countries have enjoyed a “very strong relationship” that is largely based on “our strategic partnership” but underlined that “more needs to be done” in the area of people-to-people engagement.
Earlier, the French President was to travel to India late this year for the meeting of the ISA Â— an initiative that is the brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, the founding ceremony of the ISA, which was to be graced by Macron and Modi on December 8, has been deferred, an official of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said today.
The French envoy, while interacting with reporters at his residence to announce the date for the third edition of ‘Bonjour India’, also emphasised that the event was not merely a festival but an expression of the Indo-French relationship.
“Second, now we want to do much more, on what we could call, a partnership for the planet, which is focusing on clean energy, be it nuclear, or renewable of course and, smart cities, green mobilities. These are the sectors, on which we have been working for many years.
“But, we want to develop, build and transform (these engagements) into real, strong partnership,” he added.
Ziegler said the focus on climate, clean energy, and smart cities is “very important for us (France)”.
“And, it is not by chance, that the bilateral visit of our President is going to coincide with the ISA summit, which is also very important,” he said.
“Third, we have to do much more on the people-to-people exchange, especially in the academic and education sector…
We are really committed to do much more on this and, set a target of having 10,000 Indian students in French universities by 2020, from 4,000 as of now,” he said.
The ambassador said stronger links between universities, more scholarships, communications, joint projects, are essential.
“And, President Macron’s visit would also be focusing on this third pillar, which is people-to-people partnership,” he said.
Asked about the MoUs which are likely toe be signed during his visit, the French envoy only said, “The success of a visit cannot be measured by number of MoUs.” “We wish to engage on on the three major pillars… But, yes, we want to engage more in education and academic arena” he said.
The envoy said: “We are going to organise ‘Knowledge Summit’, a gathering of academicians, chancellors of various universities, where the idea would be to ink more agreements between major academic institutions.” The date of the event is yet to be finalised.
About French FDI in India, Ziegler said it has been “rising” in the past two-three years.
“The influx has been one billion euros per year for the past two years. And, investment spans various sectors, including in defence, automobiles, aviation and pharmacy,” he added.