India a great democracy, says France's President Hollande

French President Francois Hollande arrived in New Delhi this morning for his two-day visit to a ceremonial reception by President Pranab Mukherjee at his official residence, Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Along with Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Hollande inspected a guard of honour and also met members of the union cabinet.

Setting a new precedent, India accorded the President's lady companion Valerie Trierweiler the status of 'honorary wife' and she received the same red-carpet treatment as Hollande.

The visiting President said it was a great honour for him to visit India and thanked his Indian counterpart for extending a warm welcome to him.

"I am sure that this visit will lay our relationship at the best level we can hope. And we must always improve the relationship between our two countries. India is a great democracy," Hollande said.

During his visit, Hollande and his delegation is expected to have talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and external affairs minister Salman Khurshid. Hollande will also call on United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.

The French President will also visit Mumbai, where after a reception by a governor he will meet state political leaders and businessmen in the country's financial capital. Later he will participate in a business conference.

An official press release from the ministry of external affairs said relations between the two countries had been laid on strong historical foundations and shared values.