New Delhi :
Talks on terror, climate change and smart cities will be the highlights of the upcoming visit of President Francois Hollande, French Ambassador Francois Richier said here today even as he dismissed a “letter threat” to the visit as the work of probably an “excited gentleman”.
He lauded the security forces in Delhi for working with French officials closely to prevent any attack on the visiting delegation but said it was “sad” that the threat letter had been leaked.
On the visit of Hollande starting this Sunday, the ambassador said the focus that he foresees is mostly in three domains.
“Highlight will be terrorism in view of the situation we are in at present, state of emergency, military operations in Syria, Iraq and in Africa. Situation in India,” he said.
Richier said both France and India want to defend common interests and values.
“This is an occasion not only to remind everybody but to pull certain number of steps in this direction of combating terrorism and this will be high on the agenda,” he said talking to reporters at his residence.
Describing the security forces in Delhi as very competent, Richier said he was grateful to the security apparatus in the capital for working closely with the French to prevent any action on the visiting delegation. “It is working very well. They are very competent”.
Asked about the threat letter against Hollande’s visit to India received by the French consulate in Bengaluru yesterday, he said, “I think it is sad that it has leaked. We are looking into this.”
He said the French authorities are “accustomed” to having received leaflets like that.
“We receive plenty of them. Generally, it is to create disorder, to raise the attention of the media. They have never proved to be true threats,” he said.
However, he noted that they are still looking into the latest letter received by them.
“I cannot say it is not a true one but there is nothing at the moment which leads us to believe that it is real threat. That is another excited gentlemean... it is not a specific threat.
“It is a paper which claims to be on behalf of a terror organisation. But I cannot say that there is a threat here. It may very simply be the kind of paper that we receive very regularly from some people with strange mind who want to create a media event. That is probably the reason why it is leaked,” he said.
Richier said that French are anyway under threat across the world.
Suspense over the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter plane deal continued today as French Ambassador here Francois Richier said a “complex negotiation” is going on, just two days ahead of the visit of his President Francois Hollande to India.
“The discussions are taking place at present. So I cannot say what will be the outcome of this. They are not finalised. Indeed it is a complex negotiation,” Richier told reporters here.
The envoy said, “Of course I will share with you that I am hopeful. But hopeful does not mean we have certitude. Work is being conducted with a lot of energy.”
An inter-government framework agreement is expected to be signed during the visit of Hollande but a final contract will take time as the cost negotiations are still on.
“There will be an inter-government agreement because it is a government to government negotiation. Everything will be within this IGA and its annexure. I can confirm this because it is no surprise,” he said.
Richier later clarified that he did not mean that the IGA will be signed for sure during the visit.
Defence sources said the main problem relates to the cost issue. It is expected that the final contract for the 36 aircraft, including its missile system and others, will cost around Rs 60,000 crore.
Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria is heading the price negotiations from the Indian side.
Meanwhile, asked about the co-development project of a short range surface-to-air missile (SR-SAM) by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with MBDA of France, the Ambassador said, “We are working on it.
“Of course, we expect a decision on this by the Indian side. May be not now but in the future,” he said.
Replying to a query on possible order for more Scorpene submarines besides the six already under construction, Richier said, “Let us focus on Rafale for now.”