France best partner for India: Macron

Modi reached Varanasi and he was welcomed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanth and several other officials

A "Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region" was also agreed upon by both countries in order to maintain the safety of global sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications in accordance with the worldwide law, for countering maritime terrorism and piracy, for building maritime domain awareness, for capacity building and for greater coordination in regional/international fora in the region.

"The Indian Ocean, like the Pacific Ocean, can not become a place of hegemony", he said. Modi had last visited France in June a year ago.

Several agreements are expected to be signed in various areas.

In a Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, both the countries in effect tried to deal with the challenges thrown by China's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean Region and sought to widen the scope of ties aiming to establish an open, inclusive and transparent cooperation architecture. Analysts had already predicted Macron pitching France as India's gateway to Europe after UK's exit from the European Union.

Indian sources also said that unless the EDF is out of its financial mess, the NPCIL will not go ahead with a final contract or a General Framework Agreement with the French company. France also supports India's entry in the Indian Ocean Commission (lOC) as an Observer, and encourages its growing involvement in European Union projects for the Indian Ocean, the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Mr Macron talked about his personal rapport with Mr Modi, which was established after their meeting in Paris previous year. French President Macron will be accorded ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhawan in the morning.

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Sharing his thoughts on digital world and technology, the French President Macron said, "We're in the middle of revolution on digital era and climate change".

Modi broke protocol to receive Macron at the airport Friday, exchanging warm hugs and robust handshakes.

On Monday, he heads to the Hindu holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the river Ganges, which the Indian premier has promised to modernise and clean up. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the French President discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in defence, security, trade, and investment.

Both he and Macron are often compared internationally due to their broadly similar political views, as well as youth and good looks.

Mr Macron has so far opted for more sober and predictable dress - a dark suit.

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