French President Francois Hollande coming to India

In his first country visit beyond Europe and Africa, French President Francois Hollande will be on a two-day state visit to India from Feburary 14 along with his companion Valerie Trierweiler at the head of a 60-strong business delegation of businessmen.

Some half dozen ministers will also be accompanying the French President, who was elected President in May last year, and his India visit is being viewed as a significant milestone in bilateral relationship.

Besides defence and nuclear energy, the other key issues which will be discussed include urban development, education, research and development, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy.

How ever no major agreements -- for the French multi-role combat aircraft, Rafale, or for the French nuclear power reactors -- would be signed during the visit.

The negotiations on both the fronts have been going on for more than a year and sources on both sides indicated during the recently concluded Aero India that the negotiations were moving ahead steadily, but it was unrealistic to put a time frame in view of the complexity of the deals involved.

The multi-billion dollar Rafale deal is the world's single biggest defence deal in history and perhaps also the biggest deal in which nearly 85 percent of the equipment would be manufactured in the buying country. The negotiations are advancing in five sub-committees, which are looking at all aspects including price and technology transfer.

According to MoD officials, the MMRCA deal is likely to be inked later this year.

The visiting leader on Feburary 14 will hold delegation level talks with Prime minister Manmohan Singh, while External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will pay a call on him.

On Feb 15, apart from delivering a lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum, he will then visit Mumbai where he will participate in a business conference, a statement from MEA said.

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