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TRADE

Hollande begins crucial trade offensive in India

French President Francois Hollande embarked on a fresh push Thursday to clinch a $12-billion sale of Rafale fighter jets as he held talks in India on his first visit to Asia since taking office.

Hollande begins crucial trade offensive in India
Visitors look at the Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft at Aero India 2013. Hollande is hoping he can clinch a €12 billion euro deal with India for the French jets. Photo: STR/AFP

The Socialist president was accompanied by a high-powered delegation of five ministers including Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and the chiefs of more than 60 top French companies.

The trip is aimed at building on the "strategic Indo-French partnership launched 15 years ago", a French official said.

It marks Hollande's first visit to Asia since taking office in May and both Indian and French officials say the mission underscores the importance France attaches to ties with the world's second-fastest growing major economy.

"Our relations are growing fast in all sectors… in economic, industrial and commercial spheres," an Indian foreign ministry official said, while cautioning against expecting any big-bang announcements from Hollande's visit.

Hollande is being given a red-carpet welcome and will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other ministers before travelling to financial hub Mumbai where he will meet some of the country's biggest business leaders.

The corporate bosses reflect the wide gamut of French firms interested in export opportunities in India's vast market — from luxury goods maker LVMH to aerospace giant EADS, which owns plane manufacturer Airbus.

The president, who just two weeks ago was basking in a hero's welcome in Mali, arrives in New Delhi as the French-led military campaign to drive out Islamists from the African nation's northern territory is in its second month – a subject expected to surface at the talks.

Hollande will be lobbying hard for the $12-billion (9.6-billion euro) deal France's Dassault Aviation hopes to clinch to sell 126 Rafale warplanes

Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier is also part of Hollande's delegation.

In a welcome showcase for Dassault, the jets have been deployed during France's lightning offensive in Mali.

'Too early to pop the bubbly'

India last year chose the French firm for exclusive negotiations to equip its air force with new fighters and while New Delhi says the discussions are "proceeding smoothly" it has already said the contract will not be signed during Hollande's visit as it is being fine-tuned.

Paris will have to "wait a little" to pop the bubbly, Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid advised last week.

Another major project for discussion is a contract for Areva to build a 9,900-megawatt nuclear power plant in the western coastal state of Maharashtra.

The $9.3-billion framework agreement was signed during a visit to India in 2010 by Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

But the project has run into stiff opposition from environmentalists concerned about seismic activity in the area and fears about the safety of nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

India said this week it is "fully committed" to the French-assisted Jaitapur nuclear plant but conceded there are "issues pertaining to cost".

In an editorial on Thursday, The Times of India said that France "is arguably India's longest standing all-weather friend, save Russia" but said it was too rooted in trade rather than a partnership of equals.

"This is indeed a good time to move the engagement from one that is still tactical and transactional to one that is more strategic and sustainable," said the paper.

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INDIA

Where to celebrate Diwali in France in 2019

France’s Indian community will be hosting a number of Diwali events across the country in the last days of October.

Where to celebrate Diwali in France in 2019
Photo: AFP

If you’re looking to add a bit of spice and colour to an otherwise grey October in France, maybe a dose of Diwali is what you need. 

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is a four to five day-long festival of lights which is celebrated mainly by Hindus every autumn, but also by Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.

This year it is estimated around a billion revellers across the globe will light candles outside their homes and at festivals to symbolise the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

In France, where around 20,000 Indian citizens are officially registered, there will be a number of events in the final days of October to mark the occasion.

Nantes, Friday October 25th: More than 1,000 people are expected to take part in a Diwali celebration in the Loire-Atlantique city which will include concerts, talks and group meditation. The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and the city’s Sahaj Yoga meditation centre are organising the event.

Rennes, Saturday October 26th: Brittany will hold a multi-faceted Diwali celebration organised by its local Namasté Breizh association.

It will take place in the Rennes commune of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande (10 Rue Francois Mitterrand), starting at 5pm on Saturday with a concert by legendary bansuri (Indian flute) player Harsh Wardhan and then followed by classical and Bollywood dance routines, an organic vegetarian dinner for guests and a Indian dance party to cap it all off.

More info on tickets here.

Montpellier, Saturday October 26th and Sunday October 27th: The southern French city will hold a two-day Diwali music and dance festival with performances by more than 15 internationally renowned artists, kalbeliya and bhangra dance workshops, a dance competition and much more.

Find out more from organisers Natyamandir here

Paris, Saturday October 26th: Paris’s India House (Fondation Maison de l’Inde) has an interesting Diwali programme planned for the weekend.

Starting at 5pm on Saturday it will include a magic show, a Rajasthani Gypsy music and dance concert by the Anwar Khan Group, a fireworks display and a special Diwali dinner.

Paris, Wednesday, October 30th: If you missed earlier Diwali celebrations in the French capital, you can still head to the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) on Wednesday for a grand event being organised by the Indian Embassy in Paris and GOPIO.

Visitors can expect a show of traditional Indian songs, music and dance, candlelit dinners and appetizers, and of course, fireworks.

READ MORE: In which parts of France do Indians live?


 

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