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Hollande emphasises on French firms partnering with Indian companies

PARIS, July 8: Emphasizing that French investments in India were “substantial”, with more than 13 billion euros and 750 French companies established there, President Hollande expressed France’s resolve “to continue with this strategy of establishing [French companies] in partnership with Indian companies”.

In the presence of Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma and the CEOs of the biggest Indian private companies, the Head of State emphasised his determination to raise our economic partnership to the heights of our close political relations. President Hollande was accompanied by the French ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Industrial Recovery, and the Minister of State for Small- and Medium-Scale Enterprises, Innovation and the Digital Economy.

Along with our privileged partnerships in aeronautics, defence and civilian nuclear energy, President Hollande recalled our resolve to deepen our trade, particularly in the sectors of food processing, urban development, energy, health, infrastructure, electronics, new information technology, transport, and tourism. He underscored the importance we attach to strengthening the place of SMEs and midcap companies in developing our economic exchanges.

The President of the French Republic called for enhancing employment- and activity-generating Indian investments, and outlined the recent measures taken by the government for strengthening the competitiveness and attractiveness of France as a destination and its economic stakeholders.

“We also wish to convince Indian investors to come to France, with the same spirit of sharing, respect and responsibility,” said President Hollande, who had come to India last February on a State visit with a strong economic component.

The establishment of the Governing Board of the Indo-French CEOs Forum is mentioned in the January 2008 Indo-French Joint Statement and forms part of the Indo-French strategic partnership initiated by President Jacques Chirac in Mumbai in 1998. A part of the Board members first met in Paris at the Lafarge Group corporate headquarters in Paris on 26 June 2009. It replaced a former bilateral body that was in charge of developing initiatives in a wide range of areas, such as culture and economy.

The co-chairs of the Forum are Mr Bertrand Collomb (Lafarge) and, since 2012, Mr Dhruv Sawhney (Triveni Engineering & Industries Ltd.). The Board is composed of 27 other French members (chosen by Mr Collomb) and 23 Indian members (proposed by CII and FICCI and decided by the Prime Minister’s Office).

The CEOs Forum usually meets twice a year, alternating between France and India. The sessions are traditionally inaugurated by the ministers of commerce or foreign trade.

As of today, six meetings have been held: June and November 2009, June and December 2010 (Presidential Visit in India), January (Paris) and November (Delhi) 2012. The works of the Forum have dealt with energy, infrastructure, climate change, rural India, education and research, joint investments in both the countries. In November last year, two themes were discussed by the CEOs of the two countries: PPPs and CSR.

India expresses 'concerns' on proposed UK visa rules

Under new visa rules, visitors will be forced to pay a cash bond of £3,000 before entering the UK

LONDON, June 25: India has expressed “serious concerns” over the new visa norms proposed by the UK earlier this week, which require applicants to pay a hefty cash bond of £3,000 (Rs 2.8 lakh).

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma raised the issue in London today during his meeting with Vince Cable, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Oliver Letwin, minister for government policy in the Cabinet office, and Gregory Barker, minister in-charge for business engagement with India.

An official statement by the commerce ministry said Sharma was assured by the British government that the proposal for the pilot project had not been sanctioned by the government.

The external affairs ministry has sought further clarity on the issue from the Indian high commission in London. The ministry said it might raise the issue during the India-UK consular discussions, expected next month.

The UK is planning to pilot a scheme with effect from November for a year, targeted at visitors from at least six countries including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Ghana, because these are considered “high-risk”. Under it, visitors will be forced to pay a cash bond of £3,000 before entering the UK. This will not be applicable for children under 18.

“This would be a deterrent factor. But I hope that it is only temporary deterrent. We will make all diplomatic efforts to ensure that there is no hindrance to student mobility," said Human Resource Development Minister M M Pallam Raju.

Ameet Nivsarkar, vice-president of IT industry body Nasscom, said it would only be applicable to visitors. “Besides, it is a pilot programme; so it is not going to be applicable for all.”

According to the UK, the pilot project is aimed at addressing concerns on misuse of visa and reduce the risk of overstaying.

“In the long run, we are interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services. We're planning a pilot that focuses on overstayers and examines a couple of different ways of applying bonds. The pilot will apply to visitor visas, but if the scheme is successful, we would like to be able to apply it on an intelligence-led basis on any visa route and any country,” said UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May in a statement issued by the British High Commission here.

The Indian industry has already expressed its sharp resentment over the proposed norm and warned that the move will act as significant deterrent in India-EU bilateral relations.

According to CII, such a step is “highly discriminatory and very unfortunate” and that it will adversely impact businesses, flow of students and tourism.

Vindi Banga, chairman of FICCI's UK Advisory Group, said: “A high-risk status for visas for Indian visitors to the UK is 180 degrees opposite to Prime Minister David Cameron's emphasis on a special relationship with India. If true, this move will adversely impact students, tourists and business alike."

India and the European Union are currently engaged in talks for having a wide-ranging free trade agreement, which also includes a relaxed visa regime. If such a move by the UK government goes through, this will be contrary to what was promised under the proposed deal.

Ironically, during his visit to India in February, Cameron had promised a relaxed visa regime between both countries for businessmen.



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