France first in New Delhi as West courts Modi

Sri Dharanee Performance Arts Theatre

NEW DELHI, June 30, 2014 (AFP) – France Monday became the first Western power to hold talks in India with the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived to push defence deals and trade. The reform-minded Modi has been widely courted by Western governments since his election in May, with his plans to open up the economy and spur economic growth raising hopes for foreign investors.

European governments and the United States boycotted him for a decade over religious riots which occurred while he was running his home state of Gujarat. They are now redoubling efforts to make up for lost time.

Japan, which has longstanding ties with Modi, is widely seen as the best poised among Western powers, but Fabius stressed the importance of arriving first in New Delhi.

“It’s an honour,” he told AFP at the French embassy where he held talks with India-based business leaders. “It shows the depth of the ties between India and France.”

He is expected to push a giant but stalled deal to supply 126 French-made Rafale fighter jets to India, which has been under final negotiation since January 2012 and is worth at least 12 billion dollars.

The complicated contract, which involves techn