French President Francois Hollande has landed in India for a three-day visit, during which he will be the chief guest of the Republic Day parade, to be held in the capital New Delhi. The longstanding Indo-France Rafale aircraft deal is on the agenda of the visiting French leader and the two countries are likely to reach an agreement.
Shortly after Hollande landed in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "A warm welcome to Hollande. We are honoured and delighted to have him as the chief guest for Republic Day celebrations." India marks its 67th Republic Day on 26 January.
Another message read: "President Hollande and I will meet in Chandigarh and Delhi. We will build on the ground covered during our previous interactions." Although Modi did not receive him at the airport, he joined the French president in Chandigarh for further visits.
The two leaders will visit popular tourist spots in the city under thick security cover, which has been beefed up due to multiple threats in recent days.
Nevertheless, all eyes are on the proposed Rafale deal in which India is looking to purchase 36 Rafale jets in fly away conditions. Although both sides have agreed on most of the specifics of the agreement – which have already witnessed a string of complex problems – negotiations are still on over pricing.
In a likely attempt to underplay any hopes, Hollande told Indian news agency Press Trust of India ahead of kicking off the tour: "The Rafale is a major project for India and France. It will pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation, including 'Make in India', for the next 40 years. Agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time, but we are on the right track." The Rafael deal is worth Rs600bn (£6.2bn, $8.8bn) and the final version of the agreement was announced in April 2015 when Modi visited France.