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India, France vow to fight terror as Modi, Hollande meet in Chandigarh

Indian and French companies on Saturday signed 16 back-to-back agreements as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting French President Francois Hollande vowed to fight terror jointly.

The India-France Business Summit brought together 25 corporate honchos from both countries as Hollande kickstarted his three-day trip India trip with a touchdown at Chandigarh which has a strong French connection — it is designed by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier.

Speaking at the summit, Hollande said one of the main agendas of his visit was to foster ties between Paris and New Delhi to tackle terrorism as both were affected by the menace.

Hollande said India and France have had over the years, beyond the strategic partnership, the willingness to work in the same direction.

“I will talk about two: first, security, because we are affected by regional crisis and also terrorism. Both countries have been hit. So together we will increase our exchanges, cooperation between services and act to reinforce our military equipment. It is part of the agenda for this trip,” he said.

“Following the success of the 2015 Paris climate conference in December, we are going to translate our common drive to implement as fast as possible the Paris agreement in launching here the solar alliance.

“It is an epic adventure, where our companies, which are numerous here, will be welcomed in India first in line. Besides, numerous job opportunities are also in line during this trip on top of the diplomatic, political and military agenda,” Hollande added.

The French president said the trip to India was special to him because he has been invited to celebrate the Republic Day with French troops joining the military parade.

“It is the best symbol to illustrate the relations between France and India,” he added.

Modi said India was the fastest growing economy in the world. “We have the labour and the market for your (French) products,” he said.

“We want to venture into defence manufacturing and France and India can do a lot together.”

‘Proud to host Hollande’

Earlier, Modi and Hollande met at the iconic Rock Garden, with both greeting each other with a warm hug.

Modi arrived at the Chandigarh air force station around 2.20 pm and headed straight to the Rock Garden to meet the top French leader, who had arrived here with his entourage, including six ministers, a few hours earlier.

Shortly before the arrival of the French leader, Modi had tweeted, “A warm welcome to French President @fhollande. We are honoured & delighted to have him as the Chief Guest for Republic Day celebrations.”

“President Hollande & I will meet in Chandigarh & Delhi. We will build on the ground covered during our previous interactions,” the Prime Minister added.

After taking a round of the Rock Garden both leaders proceeded for sightseeing and visit the Capitol Complex and the Government Museum and Art gallery, where Hollande will be shown fossil discovered from the Shivalik Hills by French and Indian archaeologists.

“The two leaders viewed the displays of archaeological findings from the foothills of the Himalayas which suggest human activity possibly dating back to 2.6 million years ago, making them among the oldest known remnants of human existence,” a statement issued by the external affairs ministry in New Delhi stated.

“This significant discovery is the result of seven years of extensive research and collaboration between the Prehistory Department of the National Museum of Natural History of France and the Society of Archaeological and Anthropological Research of Chandigarh undertaken under the auspices of an ‘Agreement of Collaboration between Society for Archaeological & Anthropological Research, India and French National Museum of Natural History’,” it added.

According to the statement, the archaeological discovery comprises about 1,500 fossil finds, including 200 quartzite tools collected from several locations spread over 50 acres of area in Masol region near Chandigarh.

Around 6 pm, the two premiers flew separately to Delhi, where Hollande will attend the Republic Day parade on January 26 as the chief guest.

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