French President Emmanuel Macron Saturday said he wanted his country to be India's best partner in Europe as he started a three-day trip to the country aimed at ratcheting up security and energy ties.
Macron, who was welcomed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his traditional bear hug on his arrival late Friday, also said ‘collective security’ will be on top of the agenda during talks later Saturday.
‘France is the entry point to Europe. We want to be India's best partner in Europe,’ Macron said after a ceremonial reception at New Delhi's presidential house.
‘The first (objective of my visit) is to seal for the decade to come a strong pact around collective security in the region between our two democracies.’
The two countries are to sign an accord to step up military cooperation in the Indian Ocean where regional power China has been flexing its muscles.
Macron also talked about his personal rapport with Modi which was established after their meeting in Paris last year.
‘I think we have very good chemistry, our two great democracies have a historic relationship,’ the French president said.
Modi broke protocol to receive Macron at the airport Friday, exchanging warm hugs and robust handshakes.
‘Welcome to India, President @EmmanuelMacron! Your visit will add great strength to the strategic partnership between India and France,’ he tweeted Friday.
On Sunday, Macron will attend a solar power summit designed to showcase India and France's commitment to fighting climate change, which both leaders have made a priority.
Travelling with his wife Brigitte, France's 40-year-old president will also visit the monument to love, the Taj Mahal, a few hours drive from the Indian capital on Sunday.
On Monday, he heads to the chaotic Hindu holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the river Ganges, which the Indian premier has promised to modernise and clean up.
Macron's vist comes after a somewhat mistep laden visit to India by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Both he and Macron are often compared internationally because of their broadly similar political views, as well as youth and good looks.
But Trudeau's visit hit a series of embarrassing bumps and he received a fairly cool reception from Modi.
Trudeau was pilloried on social media and in the Canadian press for donning traditional Indian clothing at every opportunity.
And there were red faces when it emerged a former Sikh militant was invited to a dinner with him in Mumbai.
Macron has so far opted for more sober and predictable dress -- a dark suit.
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