News In "Big Leap", India-France Scale Land, Water, Air And Space: 10 Facts

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New Delhi: Deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries, India and France today sealed business deals for 16 billion dollars and signed 14 agreements including security pacts that could help counter China's growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. French President Emmanuel Macron, who was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a bear hug at the airport last evening, got down to business right away after a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. After meetings with Indian leaders, Mr Macron called New Delhi a strategic partner of France in South Asia and "we want to be yours in Europe".

Here are the latest developments in this story:

1. PM Modi spoke of the many agreements that the two sides had signed, describing the outcome of his talks with the visiting French leader a big leap in ties. "Be it land, water, air, or space, our cooperation and ties bind us together in all," he said.

2. "Stability in the Indian Ocean region is very important for the stability of the entire region, and we are with India for freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific," Mr Macron said.

3. As PM Modi and President Macron met, the French presidency said in a statement that French and Indian companies today signed contracts worth 13 billion euros ($16 billion).

4. Mr Macron, 40, began his official engagements this morning, when he was given a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi. "Our aim is to begin a new era in ties between our two countries. For France, India is our priority and has always been. India has been France's first ally in the region. It is the entry point for France in the region, and my aim is to make France the entry point for India to Europe," Mr Macron said. He later visited the Raj Ghat.

5. President Macron also met Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj this morning. "They exchanged views on enhancing strategic partnership in trade and investment, defence and security, culture, education and people-to-people ties," tweeted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

6. The French President arrived last night in Delhi and is accompanied by his wife Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron, businessmen and top officials. PM Modi received Mr Macron at the airport and greeted him with a hug.

7. PM Modi and President Macron will co-chair the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), tomorrow. The ISA is a flagship Indian initiative launched by PM Modi and the French president on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference in 2015. This meeting will be of great significance against the backdrop of the United States, under President Trump, pulling out of the Paris accord. India and France have pledged to achieve reduction in emissions as committed at Paris.

8. On a day Mr Macron arrived in India, the Congress said there was new information to suggest that India was paying far more than countries like Qatar and Egypt for the 36 Rafale jets being acquired by the Indian Air Force. According to the Congress, "India is clearly paying an extra price of Rs. 350.90 crore per aircraft or Rs.12,632 crore for 36 aircraft." The BJP hit back, saying the Congress was "misleading the country over a sensitive issue like defence".

9. The last visit of a French President to India was in January, 2016, when President Francois Hollande was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations. PM Modi had visited France in June last year, immediately after Mr Macron was elected President.

10. Mr Macron will also pay a visit to PM Modi's constituency Varanasi. Both leaders will take a boat ride on the Ganga, which will include a private lunch. They will also visit Mirzapur to inaugurate a 100 MW solar power plant. President Macron and his wife will also visit the Taj Mahal.


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