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Sarkozy's India Visit - News and Discussions

Discussion in 'Indian Defence Industry' started by Dilemma, Dec 4, 2010.

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  1. Dilemma

    Dilemma Captain SENIOR MEMBER

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    Sarkozy visits India: trade, defence … and Carla to dominate

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s upcoming four-day visit to India will be dominated by defence, trade and civilian nuclear power issues. But there’s also a private visit to the iconic Taj Mahal – this time with Carla Bruni Sarkozy.

    The last time he was in town, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was single – at least for conservative Indian protocol purposes.

    That was back in January 2008 when Sarkozy was the guest of honour at the Indian Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

    The international community of course was keenly aware that the French president was hardly single – the media could not get enough of his glamorous partner, Carla Bruni.

    But the Italian-born singer and former model threw straight-laced Indian officials into a tizzy. The couple, at that point, were NOT married. How would they announce and seat Bruni at official receptions?

    In the end, Bruni sat it out in Europe as Sarkozy made an official visit to the Taj Mahal, the world’s most famous symbol of love, sans son amour, or without his love, as the French would say.

    He did apparently miss Bruni during the trip to the 17th century edifice built by Emperor Shahjahan for his beloved wife Noor Jahan. Indian news reports said the French president “looked glum†as he toured the site.

    Just days after Sarkozy returned home from his Jan. 25-26 Indian state visit, he married his lady love on February 2, 2008.

    And so, this time, when Sarkozy visits India on a high-profile four-day visit beginning this weekend, French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy will be on the presidential plane.

    The official releases on Franco-Indian relations may not mention this, but marriage-mad India could take credit for the French president’s current conjugal state.

    Don’t expect to hear much of this during Sarkozy’s latest visit to India though. There are weightier issues at stake, including defence, bilateral trade and civilian nuclear cooperation.

    India may not be as rich – or efficient – as arch rival China, but many economists believe that with its expanding economy, population and intellectual base, it will surpass China by the end of the decade.

    Doubters – if there are any – of India’s growing clout on the international scene need only look at the recent guest list at Hyderabad House, the plush New Delhi former palace used for official events.

    Early last month, US President Barack Obama met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the landmark domed edifice. Weeks after Sarkozy’s Dec. 4-8 visit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are set to visit India, which will then be followed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s trip in the last week of 2010.

    “The leaders of four permanent UN Security Council members are coming to India in less than two months,†notes the Chennai-based French expert and author Claude Arpi. “That’s a recognition of the importance of India.â€

    The length of Sarkozy’s latest visit, his jam-packed agenda and the sheer size of the contingent on the French presidential plane is another indication of growing global weight of the world’s largest democracy.

    Unlike his brief 2008 visit, Sarkozy’s four-day trip this time features visits not only to New Delhi, but to Mumbai – where he will see the sites of the 2008 terrorist attacks – as well as Bangalore, the southern Indian city that is the hub of India’s IT industry.

    The presidential entourage includes a bevy of French industrialists as well as seven ministers – including Defense Minister Alain Juppe, Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and Economy Minister Christine Lagarde.


    Not all of them however will be present when Sarkozy makes a private visit on Sunday to the Taj Mahal – with his wife.

    The next two days will be devoted to political ceremonies as well as efforts to boost bilateral trade and defense cooperation.

    What's on the agenda:

    INTERNATIONAL ISSUES

    This is Sarkozy’s first foreign visit in his new role as G20 chairman. Unlike Obama’s visit, which focused on economic ties, the French presidential trip will feature broader global issues.

    France has long supported India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a move vehemently opposed by neighbouring China and Pakistan. India has actively endorsed Sarkozy’s ambitious G20 agenda including reforming the international monetary system, addressing the volatility in commodity prices and restructuring global governance.

    NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY

    France has been a loyal partner in India’s nuclear history in good times and bad, a record New Delhi does not forget even as the US civilian nuclear deal with India has grabbed the international headlines.

    After all, France was one of the few nations that did not condemn India’s controversial May 1998 nuclear tests. France was the also first country to sign a civilian nuclear deal with India following the 1998 tests as other world powers such as the US slapped technology-related sanctions against New Delhi.

    The 2008 deal between French nuclear giant Areva and its Indian counterpart, NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) will see Areva’s cooperation in building up to six nuclear plants in western India.

    But according to Arpi, there are several outstanding issues in the long, complex agreement that have still to be ironed out.

    In his remarks to the press, Indian Ambassador to France Ranjan Mathai has maintained that negotiations are proceeding smoothly although he admitted that “issues related to the cost or the technical aspects of the project†such as safety and liability need “to be sorted outâ€.

    The Indian parliament has recently passed the Nuclear Liabilities Bill, which is expected to help tackle the complicated issue of responsibilities between French supplier Areva and Indian operator NPCIL, as Arpi notes in a blog posting.

    UPGRADING MIRAGES

    French firm Dassault Aviation is hoping to pick up a $1.2-billion contract to revamp 56 Mirage-2000 aircraft that France sold India nearly two decades ago. Shortly before Sarkozy’s visit, Indian officials played down expectations on this front, telling reporters that there may not be a deal on the Mirage upgrade during Sarkozy’s visit. Pricing, it seems, is the major stumbling block with Indian officials trying to bargain down Dassault’s estimates. It remains to be seen if the French President can seal a deal on this one.

    RAFALES FOR SALE

    Arms-hungry India is expected to spend around $112 billion on defence acquisitions by 2016 and Paris would like to see its Rafale fighter jet feature in the acquisitions despite the King of Bahrain’s dismissive “yesterday’s technology†quip about the Rafale, which was revealed in the latest WikiLeaks documents.

    The competition however is intense with the US F-18 fighter jets, the Russian MiG-35 and the Eurofighter all in the race.

    BILATERAL TRADE

    In 2008, when Singh visited France during the July 14 Bastille Day celebrations, the two leaders set a 12 billion euros bilateral trade target to be reached by the end of 2012. While the economic crisis in Europe saw a setback in 2008, experts believe the two countries are on track to reach their target.

    While there are more than 300 French companies operating in India, France is only the seventh largest investor in India, behind Germany and the United Kingdom.

    With his delegation of top CEOs, including heads of Areva and Dassault, Sarkozy is expected to make the biggest gains in bilateral trade during his visit.

    SPACE TECHNOLOGY

    Sarkozy kicks off his India visit Saturday with a trip to the Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

    French-Indian space research collaborations include the Megha-Tropiques Mission, a collaborative effort between ISRO and French Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) to study the water cycle in the tropical atmosphere in the context of climate change. No deal is expected, but Sarkozy’s visit is aimed to highlighting the importance of joint French-Indian research efforts on climate change.

    A visit to the city popularly known as the outsourcing capital of the world is an indication of France’s support for the Indian IT industry. Bangalore did not feature on Obama’s itinerary during his November visit. But unlike the US, outsourcing is not a politically sensitive issue in France.

    OTHER DEFENCE DEALS

    France and India currently have a joint manufacturing project of six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon docks near Mumbai. The deal now needs to get into a second phase, which would take further negotiations.

    New Delhi is also looking to buy reconnaissance and observation helicopters, for which French companies are expected to place bids.

    The two countries are also expected to pursue joint research and development deals in the area of surface-to-air missiles.

    France24 - Sarkozy visits India: trade, defence ... and Carla to dominate
     
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