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French President receives ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan

French President receives ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan

French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday said defence ties with India have reached a new high after the two nations signed a key security accord to counter China's growing influence in the region.

The visiting President Macron, who spoke about right chemistry in bilateral relations with India, and Prime Minister Modi expressed satisfaction at the working of the bilateral Maritime Dialogue instituted in 2015.

In fact, French and Indian companies have already signed contracts worth 13 billion euros ($16 billion) on the first day of Macron's visit, the French presidency said in a statement.

Presenting the French perspective on maritime and military cooperation, President Emmanuel Macron said, "The Pacific and the Indian Oceans can not become zones for hegemonic power and we are, therefore, building a strategic partnership". The two leaders also presented a vision for a future where they will explore the Moon, Mars and particularly Venus.

The nuclear agreement is considered significant, with critics saying that the Jaitapur nuclear plant, which will generate 9,900 megawatts of power in western India, is in a seismic zone. France is the ninth largest foreign investor in India.

Macron's visit comes after a somewhat misstep-laden visit to India by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Macron is in India on a four-day visit.

On his part, Macron said India and France have made a decision to work together to deal with threats of terrorism and radicalisation.

"The second goal of this trip is to organise this International Solar Alliance (conference)", he said.

The French leader expressed his desire to make his country "India's best partner in Europe", replacing Britain as India's "gateway to Europe".

"France is the entry point to Europe".

The Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) was also revealed to be co-chaired by President Macron along with Prime Minister Modi.

It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Sunday's conference will be attended by 23 of those who have submitted the instruments of ratification and 24 of those who have signed the framework agreement.

On Saturday, Macron will take part in a Town Hall and have an interactive session, in which almost 300 students from different institutions are expected to participate.