Rafale deal, n-supplies top PM's agenda on Paris visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Paris on last night on the first leg of a three-nation tour, with the Rafale warplane deal and civil nuclear supplies expected to top the agenda in talks with French President Francois Hollande.

He will also meet business leaders, seeking to increase overall trade with France.

A highlight of his stay in France will be a boat ride with French President François Hollande, which is being described in typical Modi-speak as naav pe charcha (chat on a boat). Earlier, Modi has had chai pe charcha (talks over tea) with foreign leaders, including US President Barack Obama during his visit to New Delhi in January.

In Paris, Modi will also visit the World War-I memorial and pay special tribute to about 10,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives while fighting alongside France and its ally Britain.

Ahead of talks between the two leaders, India today said it expects ''movement'' on a proposal for setting up French nuclear reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra as well as the Rafale fighter deal, both of which have been stuck – partly because India does not have the upfront money to complete the deals.

These issues, along with trade, will be high on the agenda of substantive discussions between the two leaders amid India's keen interest to get participation of French companies in the 'Make in India' programme.

Terrorism, against the backdrop of the Charlie Hebdo attack three months back, will also be discussed.

''India and France are strategic partners. In this context, the issues of civil nuclear and defence cooperation will be discussed. The issues you referred to will also be discussed.

We expect movement on these issues,'' external affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said in Paris when asked whether the two leaders will talk about Jaitapur nuclear project and multi-billion dollar Rafale deal.

 ''There will be substantive discussions on defence and nuclear issues. Wait for the outcome,'' he added.

The spokesman said India expects French companies to participate in 'Make in India' programme in the field of defence as well as civil nuclear energy, ''where India can make some nuclear installations with France''.

The Jaitapur project, where French company Areva is to set up six nuclear reactors with total power generation capacity of about 10,000 MW, is stuck for long because of differences over the cost of electricity to be generated.

Similarly, the deal to supply 126 Rafale fighter planes is also deadlocked because of differences over price.

During his visit, PM Modi will also visit UNESCO headquarters, the Airbus facility and French space agency office.

After wrapping up the first leg of his tour, Modi will head to Germany, where business and technology will be the focus his engagements aimed at attracting participation in the 'Make in India' campaign.

In the third and last leg of his tour, Modi will travel to Canada, marking the first personal visit by an Indian Prime Minister to that country in over 42 years.