Hollande Visits India, Seeking Both Cultural Ties and Business Opportunities

President François HollandePhoto: flickr.com/jmayrault

President François Hollande
Photo: flickr.com/jmayrault

French President François Hollande concluded his first official visit to Asia Friday February 15 after two days in India and meeting with Prime Minister Manmahon Singh. Though the timing of the visit coincided with an extremely lucrative business deal between France’s Dassault Aviation and the Indian Air Force, President Hollande insisted that the visit was for diplomatic purposes. However, negotiations for the 11 billion dollar deal between the two countries did speed up February 14 as Hollande toured New Delhi. The deal would sell 126 Rafale fighter jets to India’s armed forces. Another contract, a 9.3 billion dollar agreement with French energy giant Areva to build a nuclear power complex in the Western part of the country, was also being discussed.

In spite of these business deals, Hollande stated that the aim of his trip was to honor France’s strong relationship with India, the world’s largest democracy, as well as to increase trade between the two countries. India has massive potential for growth and trade in the energy market, and while France supplies the majority of India’s nuclear fuel as the world’s biggest nuclear energy manufacturer, Hollande appears eager to maintain this mutually beneficial arrangement.

India and France’s diplomatic ties are not solely based on economic gain, however, and it was Prime Minister Singh who joined France to co-sponsor the UN Security Council resolution that sent troops into Mali. Hollande did underline the impressive force and effectiveness of the Rafale jets in Mali in his address last Thursday, but he also made a point of differentiating his visit from that of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, four years earlier. While Sarkozy was accused of acting like a “traveling salesman,” Hollande focused on continuing a good relationship with India as a means to create business opportunities and mutual trust.

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