French President François Hollande arrives in India today, where he is expected to meet with government officials and be a guest of honor at Tuesday’s Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. The AP:
High on the agenda will be India’s desire to purchase 36 Rafale combat planes for its air force, which Modi had announced during a visit to Paris in April, touching off several rounds of negotiations over pricing, offsets and servicing.
Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said last week that the deal was “close to completion,” and another Indian official said this week that the two sides hoped to sign a deal during Hollande’s visit. That official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with media.
Hollande’s visit and both sides’ eagerness to strike deals reflects several things. For one, France, like most European countries, needs money and is looking everywhere for it. For its part, India wants weapons and is looking everywhere for them. France has also offered to help with domestic projects, such as high-speed rail and nuclear power.
There’s a bigger picture story here, too. Interest in India has been rising as public and private investors look for hungry populations to replace China’s flagging demand. Indeed, Prime Minister Modi has made no secret that he sees an opportunity to capitalize on the vacuum left by China. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more cash-strapped governments answering Delhi’s call.