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Asia-Pacific

Macron, Modi say no to trade war, sign bilateral deals in Delhi

media French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian PM Narendra Modi meet in New Delhi on Saturday REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Around 50 bilateral accords were signed on the first day of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India, among them a key security deal on the Indian Ocean. As well as intergovernmental agreements, private businesses signed contracts for a total 13 billion euros.

“The meaning of this visit is to make India our first strategic partner in the region, and I hope that France will become India’s first partner in Europe because we share the same vision of strategic interests and defence, the same vision of the world, and the same vision of common property, particularly the climate,” Macron said during a joint address to the press with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

France and India are celebrating 20 years of a strategic partnership that they want to move into a higher gear.

On bilateral economic interests, Macron stressed that, “we both also share the same desire for balance in trade, to preserve balances, to defend our interests within the boundaries of international trade organisations like the WTO, and to avoid any escalation which would be harmful to our economies.”

US President Donald Trump on Friday slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, leading the European Union to consider how it might retaliate.

According to official French sources, French firm Safran signed a civil aeronautics deal with Indian budget airline SpiceJet worth 12 billion euros, the biggest contracts announced during this visit so far.

And engineers Alstom won three contracts to a value of 75 million euros, two to provide power to the Mumbai and Jaipur metros and one to build trains for the Chennai metro.

Nuclear, solar power

Fourteen cooperation agreements were signed at government level.

India and France have sealed important deals in military aviation and civilian nuclear plant construction.

While the sale of EPR nuclear reactors for a plant in Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra was agreed 10 years ago, it is still a work in progress. On Saturday the conclusion of an Industrial Way Forward Agreement was announced, with the money-side of the contract still to be thrashed out.

India is enthusastically investing in renewable energy, notably solar power.

Solar panels provide electricity for the prime minister’s residence, Hyderabad House, which is a good advertisement. As it intensifies efforts to bring electricity to the whole of the country 24 hours a day, India has sought out non-carbon nuclear power, like the Jaitapur plant, to help meet its accelerated energy demand.

Today solar power and other alternatives to climate-changing carbons are a key economic development sector for India. Another contract for a French firm announced on Saturday is French firm Ciel et Terre’s installation of the first solar plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

There are also contracts for clean transport and smart cities, projects which concern Chandigarh in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and Pondicherry, a small union territory and former French trading post, in the south-east of India.

Indian Ocean agreement

On strategic cooperation in the Indian Ocean, one of the major geopolitical issues during Macron’s official visit, France and India signed, amongst other agreements, a bilateral space research and studies Memorandum of Understanding. The MoU should see joint development of a satellite surveillance system in the Indian Ocean and the two countries have agreed to give each others’ warships access to their ports there.

Meanwhile, 36 French Rafale fighter jets are soon to be delivered and the first French Scorpene submarine is to take part in military exercises in the coming weeks.

“We are two great democracies,” Macron said earlier, after being formally welcomed by the Indian president Ram Nath Kovind. “I want to open a new era for this strategic partnership for the decade, in terms of defence and security, economy and science, and an emphasis on exchange between our younger generations. France should be India’s first partner in Europe and a port of entry for its young people to study and create businesses in Europe.”

Literary gifts

Macron and Modi both appreciate literature.

Modi paid tribute to great French writers like Victor Hugo and André Malraux, which gave Macron his cue to introduce the special gift he brought from France.

It’s a finely restored first edition from 1922 of the first French translation by Emilé Sénart of the Hindu spiritual text the Baghavad Gita. When Modi came to Paris in June 2017, he gave the newly elected French leader an ancient Indian guide to good governance, Kautilya's Arthashastra.

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