Talks on terror, climate change to be focus of Hollande visit

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New Delhi, Jan 22: Talks on terror, climate change and smart cities will be the highlights of the upcoming visit of President Francois Hollande, French Ambassador Francois Richier said on Friday even as he dismissed a "letter threat" to the visit as the work of probably an "excited gentleman".

He lauded the security forces in Delhi for working with French officials closely to prevent any attack on the visiting delegation but said it was "sad" that the threat letter had been leaked.

Francois Hollande

On the visit of Hollande starting this Sunday, the ambassador said the focus that he foresees is mostly in three domains.

"Highlight will be terrorism in view of the situation we are in at present, state of emergency, military operations in Syria, Iraq and in Africa. Situation in India," he said.

Richier said both France and India want to defend common interests and values.

"This is an occasion not only to remind everybody but to pull certain number of steps in this direction of combating terrorism and this will be high on the agenda," he said talking to reporters at his residence.

Describing the security forces in Delhi as very competent, Richier said he was grateful to the security apparatus in the capital for working closely with the French to prevent any action on the visiting delegation.

"It is working very well. They are very competent". Asked about the threat letter against Hollande's visit to India received by the French consulate in Bengaluru yesterday, he said, "I think it is sad that it has leaked. We are looking into this."

He said the French authorities are "accustomed" to having received leaflets like that.

"We receive plenty of them. Generally, it is to create disorder, to raise the attention of the media. They have never proved to be true threats," he said.

However, he noted that they are still looking into the latest letter received by them.

"I cannot say it is not a true one but there is nothing at the moment which leads us to believe that it is real threat. That is another excited gentlemean... it is not a specific threat.

"It is a paper which claims to be on behalf of a terror organisation. But I cannot say that there is a threat here. It may very simply be the kind of paper that we receive very regularly from some people with strange mind who want to create a media event. That is probably the reason why it is leaked," he said.

Richier said that French are anyway under threat across the world.

Asked if there will be any development on the civil nuclear cooperation front, the French envoy said Areva was being taken over by EDF, which operates 60 nuclear reactors in France.

"So now EDF will be in the lead for this kind of operation. That is creating a change in the way nuclear negotiations are being conducted. But that is the main development which will probably been taken into account," he said.

Richier said that the second focus will be climate change and both sides will follow up on the decisions taken at the Paris climate conference.

"We will also work on energy storage. We will, of course, have an element of solar. We will have also announcement in the field of space. There will be a new project of space programme in relation to observation and prevention of climate change. We will have project in the wind energy. Investment will be announced," he said, adding there will also be cooperation in marine biotechnology.

Hollande will be arriving in Chandigarh on January 24 where he is expected to be received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leader will hold extensive talks here a day after during which ways to strengthen counter-terror cooperation in the aftermath of Paris and Pathankot terror strikes will figure prominently.

Hollande will be the fifth French leader to be a Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations -- the maximum number from any country so far. Earlier, leaders from that country had presided in 1976, 1980, 1998 and 2008.

Significantly, for the first time, French soldiers will march down the Rajpath on Republic Day along with Indian troops, a first for any foreign army.

Accompanied by a high-level delegation, Hollande will be landing in Chandigarh, which was designed by Swiss-French architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, also known as Le Corbusier between 1950s and 1960s, and will be accompanied by Modi during the sightseeing to most frequented tourist spots in the city including 'The Rock Garden'.

The two will also attend a CEO's forum before leaving for the national capital in the evening of January 24.

PTI

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