India's Modi arrives in France as part of European tour
PARIS (AP) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in France on Friday as part of a trans-Atlantic tour, with French authorities hoping to further strengthen relations with the fast-growing Asian nation amid talks about a possible fighter-jet deal.
Modi was greeted by France's foreign minister at the gilt-domed Invalides military museum the burial place of Napoleon and was meeting later with President Francois Hollande for a news conference, a boat ride on the Seine River, and a working dinner.
The French leader has cautioned that the bilateral relationship was more complex than just talks over a possible 12 billion euro ($15 billion) deal for 126 Rafale jets, made by France's Dassault Aviation.
French and Indian leaders have noted strong bilateral ties in defense, space, nuclear power and technology. Modi was also meeting with French business leaders, and was visiting the National Assembly and the headquarters of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, in Paris.
Modi, according to the French translation of an interview published Thursday in French daily Le Figaro, said his government sees France as "an important partner to support India's development." He was set to travel to the southern French city of Toulouse on Saturday to visit the headquarters of plane-maker Airbus.
The Hindustan Times, a leading New Delhi-based daily, reported Friday that India is considering a direct purchase of two squadrons of Rafales, or up to 40 jets, between governments to avoid negotiations on price that have stalled the deal.
Modi was later traveling to Germany and Canada as part of the trip.