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Asia-Pacific

Modi in France to promote Make in India, as Paris pushes Rafale nuclear deals

media Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends a ceremony in Paris, 10 April 2015. Reuters/Ian Langsdon/Pool

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday started a two-day visit in France to boost trade and promote his Make in India campaign. But Paris's attention might be fixed on long-delayed Rafale fighter jet and nuclear deals.

“It’s not a coincidence that France is the first country that I am visiting as part of my first official trip to Europe,” Modi told the French dailyLe Figaro, pointing to cooperation in the nuclear and defence sectors, “a key part of our traditional ties with France”.

Paris has been locked in negotiations with New Delhi since 2012 over the sale of 126 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation in a 11.3-billion-euro deal.

Indian and French media have reported, ahead of talks between Modi and French President François Hollande, that the Indian government was considering a direct purchase of a smaller number of jets - 40-60 - to accelerate the acquisition and replace its ageing stock.

The Indian defence ministry and Dassault have not made any comment.

On the nuclear side, there is a big project for the establishment of six EPR reactors in Jaitapur, in Maharashtra state, although French nuclear giant Areva is still awaiting the go-ahead to instal the reactors five years after a bilateral civil nuclear accord.

But Modi’s latest moves to attract investors might revive hope on these long-delayed issues.

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“Our main challenge is to create jobs for the young – 800 million Indians are less than 35 years old,” he told Le Figaro.

«After nuclear and defense issues, the most important issue is employment" said Gauri Khandekar, researcher at Spanish think-tank FRID. 

"France and India already cooperate on infrastructure and urbanisation. France is actually one of the few European countries which has officially participated in the “Make in India” project, so cooperation can be further explored in that area,” added Khandekar.

Over and above material issues, Jean-Joseph Boillot, economist, advisor at CEPII in Paris comments that diplomatically France and India have similar views.

“France is considered as one of India’s three top diplomatic partners. They both believe in multi-polar diplomacy, they are both bent on self-reliance. They want to maintain their independence from the super-powers.”

Bilateral trade between France and India is stable although essentially to India's benefit. 

In 2014 it exported 5.7-billion-euros-worth of goods to France while the French only exported 2.7-billion-euros-worth.

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