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French foreign minister coming Sunday, to meet Modi, Sushma

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius

New Delhi, June 26 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrives in India Sunday to touch base with the Narendra Modi government, becoming the first high-level Western leader to do so.

Fabius would hold talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and is also expected to meet Prime Minister Modi.

The French minister’s visit comes as India’s PSLV rocket will launch a French satellite from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh Monday.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C23) will carry the 714-kg French Earth Observation Satellite ‘SPOT-7’ as the main payload besides satellites from Germany, Singapore and Canada.

This is the second time India will be launching a French satellite into space.

Fabius and Sushma Swaraj are likely to discuss the India-EU Free Trade Agreement, which has been hanging for the past several years.

The FTA has missed several deadlines for conclusion due to major differences from both the sides on issues like reduction of duty in sectors such as auto, wines and spirits.

“With the EU and US in talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) FTA, it would be beneficial for India to conclude the trade agreement with the EU,” a source said Thursday.

The $20 billion Rafale combat aircraft deal is also likely to figure in the talks.

Final commercial negotiations for the MMRCA (medium multirole combat aircraft) project to acquire 126 of the French fighter jets are still to be concluded.

According to a source, the negotiations are moving forward and there are “no big issues to be discussed”.

The two sides are also expected to discuss the Jaitapur nuclear power project, under which France is to install six nuclear power plants.

Among the key elements to be discussed are the issue of price and India’s civil nuclear liability law, which puts the onus on suppliers in the event of an accident.

“We are ready to adjust the project within India’s nuclear liability law. We are ready to work within Indian law,” the source added.

The Rs.300,000 million Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM), a co-development venture between India and France, is also likely to figure in the talks.

The French minister will also discuss higher education and attend an event on climate change in Delhi, which assumes importance as Paris is to host the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015.

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