Land acquisition in India an area of concern: French envoy

Panaji, May 2: Issues like land acquisition are of concern for French infrastructure companies, the French envoy to India said on Saturday, but also cited an air of optimism among his country's investors and an obvious "change of mindset" in the Indian establishment.

French Ambassador Francois Richier, was here to attend a function onboard French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is currently off Goa conducting a joint naval exercise with the Indian Navy.


He also said that French investment in India was valued at around $19-$20 billion and was expected to grow by 10 percent every year.

He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France last month had given an impetus to trade between the two countries, but listed land acquisition as one of areas of concern, which he hinted could result in a delay of some major trade-related decisions.

"Of course there are still some concerns," Richier said, but also added that there are positive indications that authorities were making visible attempts to resolve problems.

"What we have seen over the last few months is the real determination to try to fix it," he said, adding that the "change in mindset" was visible when he escorted French investors and trade delegations through the corridors of power.

"They are really trying to fix the problem. We feel there is a different mindset and that is something which has already been noticed by investors," Richier said.

The French ambassador's comments come at a time when parliament is witnessing a pitched battle between the National Democratic Alliance government and the opposition over the controversial Land Acquisition bill, which the latter has dubbed as anti-farmer. Ministers have however argued that long drawn acquisition procedures were a deterrent for investment and infrastructure projects.

Richeir also said that there are over 1,000 French companies which have invested around $19-20 billion dollars in India in diverse sectors ranging from automobile, cosmetics, cement, aeronautics, etc.

While some of them's presence is over 100 years old, Richier said that many others were set up in the early 2000s during the first National Democratic Alliance regime.

He also said that Modi's visit to France had triggered a good sentiment among French business about potential investments in India.

"The sentiment is generally good. When the prime minister was in France, he met key industrialists from the infrastructure sector and defence sector and we expect more decisions to come after the visit," he said, adding that the decisions would take anywhere between a few weeks to months to materialize and that some big contracts had already been identified.

"In the years to come in terms of French investment, we can expect 1 or 2 billion (euros) every year," Richier said, adding that the rate of growth of French businesses in India was likely to be around 10 percent.


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