Hollande to be Republic Day chief guest

Hollande to be Republic Day chief guest

French President Francois Hollande has been invited to be chief guest at the 2016 Republic Day ceremony, signalling India’s keenness to boost strategic partnership with France.

Hollande’s willingness to accept the invitation and visit India in January 2016 was informally conveyed by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a visit to New Delhi on Friday.

Paris will officially announce the visit later when Hollande receives the formal invitation from his counterpart President Pranab Mukherjee, sources said on Saturday.

Modi on Friday conveyed to Fabius India’s resolute support to France’s move to step up air strikes on Islamic State facilities in Iraq and Syria in the aftermath of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. New Delhi is understood to have conveyed to Paris that it was ready to do whatever possible to help eliminate the scourge of the terror outfit, which has expanded footprints in Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

Hollande’s visit to Delhi for the R-Day ceremony will give India and France an opportunity to step up security cooperation, with particular focus on combating terrorism, officials told Deccan Herald on Saturday.

India-France Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism met in June 2014 and both sides are now preparing for the next meeting. The two countries also have a bilateral mechanism for annual strategic dialogue, which is now co-chaired by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his French counterpart Jacques Audibert. They last met in New Delhi in October 2014 and are likely to meet again in Paris.

New Delhi is of the view that the series of attacks in Paris should be a wake-up call for the US and western powers to drop their selective approaches in combating terrorism and push them to seek more effective international cooperation to fight the menace.

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