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India is a strategic partner, a world partner: Girard

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 10: “France considers India to be a strategic partner! India is a world partner,” said Ambassador Dominique Girard on the eve of his departure from India.

Ambassador Girard said “we feel that we must encourage the development of responsible countries which have a policy not only at the regional level but also for the planet. Obviously, India comes under this category, and that’s why France supports, for instance, India’s candidature for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council.”

He said “India is a country which has its share of problems, its particularities, interests, ambitions, and generally expresses this in a way which is absolutely compatible with our vision of the world, with our idea of having a democratic international life in which one preserves one’s independence while working on building a more stable and balanced world.”

Ambassador Girard had become one of the most popular Ambassadors during his five years stint here. He was known for hosting one of the most exciting parties on New Delhi’s cultural scene.

“I spent exciting years of my life here, discovering and experiencing India at first hand with my wife Maud, promoting bilateral ties in various areas – politics, economy, defence, military, education, culture.”

He reminded that France was the first country in the world, in the Post- Cold War period, to establish a relation with India which is called a “strategic dialogue”. This dialogue was initiated subsequent to the first visit of President Chirac to India in 1998.

On the military co-operation, he said the two countries have had a lot to exchange in this arena. “Take for instance, the joint exercises of the Indian and French navies, which now take place regularly and which are a formidable means for both sides to learn about new approaches, exchange notes on technical expertise, speak on peacekeeping and controlling the freedom of navigation in these vast maritime zones where the bulk of international trade transits.”

Ambassador Girard said “we enjoy quite a privileged position because France is an important power without being a superpower, and India is a regional power with an international calling.”

For a long time now, he said France has had relations with India as defence material supplier. For example, in 2005, the two countries signed a very important contract for supplying submarines.

“Our relation is based on trust, on the fact that the French are reliable suppliers of materials adapted to the needs of Indians, and Indians are clients who cause no problems because they have a democratic policy and have never attacked any one and there is no manner of political difficulty. It’s a good relation which should develop further in the future. On both sides, the military as well as military experts greatly appreciate this relation and wish to develop it.”

To a question whether Franco-Indian military co-operation gives a boost to industrial co-operation, the Ambassador said “we are in favour of what is called technology transfers. We not only sell materials, like aircraft for example, but we also sell the entire technology which enables the manufacture of the material or a part of it.”

On his favourite place in India, he said he didn’t get enough had the time to visit all he wanted to see.

“Recently, my wife and I visited Hampi, which is an absolutely divine site. ‘Divine’ I think it’s a word that goes well with India’s architecture... Khajuraho, too. But there are places where you just have a little wall, the ruins of a little vault, the vestiges of an ancient fort or palace... and these little remains are just as beautiful as the Red Fort or the Taj Mahal because they are redolent with history, all that once can imagine about it."

Ambassador Girard said that India was like an outing in which one encounters history, imagination, nostalgia in the architecture, the landscape, but none of which contradict today’s realities.

“India is a country which can simultaneously contain women in colourful saris strolling the roads of a little village in deepest Madhya Pradesh, and research centres in Bangalore full of IT engineers trained in top universities. In fact, India is a reality that should only be conceived in this diversity. And that’s why, choosing ‘one’ India over another is not possible.”

To a question as to which Indian personality he admired the most, Ambassador Girard said “the obvious one is Mahatma Gandhi. He is an absolutely unique personality in the history of the modern world, and I think he is somehow unsurpassable and we feel his absence. But from the mythological world, my favourite character is Lord Krishna.”

Ambassador Girard hailed the Indo-US nuclear agreement as being a result of "very careful, cautious and intelligent" negotiations and vowed to support it at IAEA and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Refusing to be drawn into the controversy over the issue, France believes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has "very good set of arguments" to push the agreement.

"I think Manmohan Singh's government and the Prime Minister himself have a very good set of arguments that they have led the negotiations with the Americans in a very careful, cautious and intelligent way," he said.

He said "our view is that India has the right and the legitimacy in getting access to civilian nuclear technology given its background, given it behaviour and its attitude."

Girard, whose country is keen to have civil nuclear cooperation with India, said France welcomes the Indo-US deal because "it is very much the product of the kind of thinking we had introduced" between India and its partners.

Before leaving for home, Ambassador Girard recalled what H.D. Thoreau once said on parting, “Nothing makes the Earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the longitudes and the latitudes.”

French embassy toasts French Open

NEW DELHI, June 10: As an annual celebration, the French this year too toasted the French Open at its embassy here. Who's who of India and the French community watched the match on giant screens set up in the embassy premises.

The French Ambassador Dominique Girard was present to welcome the guests and was looking handsome in the Lacoste T-shirt. Rafael Nadal was favourite and the crowd cheered as captured a hat-trick of French Open titles with a 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over world number one Roger Federer.

With this win on Sunday, Nadal has become the first man since Bjorn Borg to win three successive titles at Roland Garros.

It also shattered Federer's hopes of capturing a first French Open and become only the third man after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to hold all four Grand Slam crowns at the same time.

The win also preserved the 21-year-old Nadal's perfect record of never losing in the tournament in his three visits. He has now won all 21 of his matches.

Despite being the first player to take a set off the champion at this year's tournament, Federer was left to regret squandering 10 break points in the crucial first set which he lost and a huge 60 unforced errors in the match.

Sarkozy Set to Extend Majority After Legislative Vote

PARIS, June 11: French President Nicolas Sarkozy is set to tighten his grip on policy making after his Union for a Popular Movement won the first round of legislative elections.

Sarkozy's UMP may take as many as 470 seats in the National Assembly, up from 359 now, Paris-based polling firm CSA estimated after yesterday's vote. The Socialist Party may win as few as 90 in the 577-seat lower house of parliament. French voters will finalize their choice in the June 17 second round.

``These elections could be a tsunami for the UMP and a triumph for Sarkozy,'' said Gerard Grunberg, head of research at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris. ``Voters have confirmed their presidential choice.'' Sarkozy defeated Socialist Segolene Royal with 53.1 percent of the vote May 6.

A wider legislative majority may ease passage of Sarkozy's program of tax cuts of about 11 billion euros ($14.8 billion), which Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said he'd push through parliament next month. Overall in the legislative vote, the UMP won 40 percent against the Socialists' 25 percent, with 98 percent of the ballots counted, the Interior Ministry said.

The Interior Ministry said turnout was 61 percent, the lowest in 20 years for a first-round legislative election.

The UMP may take between 425 and 470 seats, according to estimates by CSA and TNS-Sofres, another polling firm. The Socialists may win between 90 and 140, down from the 149 they now have, the two institutes reported.

Fillon, who said Cabinet members would have to win parliament seats to stay in the government, Finance Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, Defense Minister Herve Morin, Budget Minister Eric Woerth, Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse, and Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand won in the first round, scoring above 50 percent. Environment Minister Alain Juppe will face a runoff against a Socialist in Bordeaux.

``We owe this to the drive of the president and the prime minister,'' Juppe said.

In his first month in office, Sarkozy, 52, established deadlines to cut taxes, deregulate hiring and firing and limit strikes by transport workers. He rebuffed his new budget minister for tailoring a proposal to allow a tax deduction for mortgage- interest payments too narrowly.

He wrapped up his first international summit two days ago and is heading for a gathering of European Union leaders in two weeks, aiming to forge a deal on decision-making in the enlarged European Union.

Seventy-four lawmakers won in the first round, the Interior Ministry reported. Almost 90 percent, or 66, were UMP candidates and 1.35 percent, or one person, won for the Socialists.

Socialists appealed for greater turnout next week to prevent ``domination'' by the UMP, in the words of Royal. ``Something is wrong,'' the former presidential candidate said, adding that anti-Sarkozy voters were resigned to defeat. Royal declined to run for re-election to parliament, choosing to remain president of the coastal Poitou-Charentes region as she prepares a campaign to lead the Socialist Party.

``This victory must be confirmed next Sunday,'' Bertrand said. ``We can't deceive the French and go back on any of our promises.''

Sarkozy's government may raise the value-added sales tax to finance the elimination of charges on overtime hours, said Borloo last night.

``We are going to look at the different ways to alleviate taxes on labor,'' Borloo said. ``We are going to look at all the possibilities, including like our German friends, the VAT.''

Scrapping levies on overtime hours will cost as much as 6 billion euros, more than half of the package of tax breaks Fillon detailed last week. Sarkozy's proposals have elicited skepticism from European Union officials that they mark a retreat from pledges to trim the budget deficit.

Sarkozy appoints PM, talks up European ties

PARIS, May 18: On his first full day as French President, Nicolas Sarkozy has appointed the moderate conservative Francois Fillon as prime minister.

Yesterday's appointment had been widely expected. Mr Fillon, 53, masterminded Mr Sarkozy's election campaign and has experience negotiating with powerful trade unions, making him a natural choice to spearhead changes in labour laws and the pensions system.

Mr Fillon's wife, Penelope, 51, comes from the Welsh village of Llanover, and will become the first British woman to move into the Hotel Matignon, the French equivalent of 10 Downing Street.

On Wednesday Mr Sarkozy made a flying visit to Berlin, during which he pledged to end the European Union's "paralysis" .

"I did not want just to make a symbolic gesture; I wanted to express my wish that we get to work straight away," Mr Sarkozy said after embracing the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

"Germany and France need each other," said Dr Merkel, a fellow right-winger whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. She, too, is seeking ways to revive the moribund EU constitution.

Mr Sarkozy advocates a "mini-treaty" to prevent bureaucratic gridlock in the 27-member bloc.

Germany and France have been the motor of European integration. However, the axis has lost momentum of late, in particular since French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed EU constitution in referendums two years ago.

Opposition to Turkey's desire to join the EU is a defining feature of Mr Sarkozy's European agenda, and the issue will be a strong bond for a new Franco-German alliance, Dr Merkel having long questioned Turkey's place in the EU.

Nicolas Sarkozy takes office as French President

PARIS, May 16: Nicolas Sarkozy took office as the new President of France on Wednesday, waving farewell to outgoing leader Jacques Chirac and promising to move quickly and boldly to equip the nation for a new era.

Chirac, ending 12 years in power, transferred the country's nuclear codes to President Sarkozy in a behind-closed-doors meeting that was a highpoint of the transfer of power.

A 21-gun salute signaled the change in leadership after the 74-year-old Chirac took his leave with a handshake at the entrance of the ornate Elysee Palace and a walk alone to a waiting car. Sarkozy, with a clenched jaw, returned the waves before turning to enter his new home for the next five years.

The blunt-talking, pro-market Sarkozy, 52, the sixth President of the Fifth Republic that was founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1958, was elected on May 6 on pledges of market reforms and a break with the past.

In his first speech as President, a determined Sarkozy noted that he was elected with a mandate for change that he was honor-bound to fulfill.

``The people conferred a mandate on me .... I will scrupulously fulfill it,'' he said, adding that further delays ``will be fatal.''

Chirac handed over the helm of the world's sixth-largest economy after two mandates marked by lackluster reforms and tensions in rundown, immigrant-packed housing projects far from the glory of the Elysee Palace.

Issues demanding attention include a jobless rate of more than 8 percent and the identity and cohesion of an old nation in a quickly changing world.

``Never has opposition to change been so dangerous for France,'' Sarkozy said, promising to restore the values of ``work, effort, merit'' and to invent new solutions.

Sarkozy said that issues of security, order, authority and results would be priorities of his administration.

Cannes spans globe for 60th anniversary

May 16: Cannes proudly flashed its global credentials on Wednesday as it lifted the curtain on its 60th edition, ushering in a near two-week frenzy of stars, screenings and lavish parties.

Jude Law, singer Norah Jones, actresses Andie MacDowell, Elizabeth Hurley, Juliette Binoche and Gong Li, directors Luc Besson and David Lynch, and heavyweight Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein swept up the carpet in style under the lenses of hundreds of cameras and a dense crowd of fans.

German actress Diane Kruger, star of the Hollywood blockbuster "Troy", hosted the glittering opening ceremony held before a screening of the first of 22 competition films -- "My Blueberry Nights", by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai.

"For 12 days we will see films that will make us laugh, cry and sing," said Kruger, speaking perfect French, English and German, as she presented the nine-person jury that will award the prestigious Palme d'Or trophy on 27th May.

Led by Britain's Stephen Frears, director of the acclaimed movie "The Queen", the panel includes actress Toni Colette of Australia and Nobel-prize winning author Orhan Pamuk of Turkey.

Another jury member, Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung, almost tripped on her gown as she joined her colleagues on stage.

"I declare the 60th festival of Cannes open," announced Taiwanese actress Shu Qui, as, next to her, 98-year-old Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira added: "Long live cinema!"

Chirac prepares to hand over power

PARIS, May 11: President Jacques Chirac and his successor met Thursday for the first time since Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential victory, jointly leading a ceremony honoring victims of slavery.

The two hosted the son of assassinated Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri in the presidential palace Thursday afternoon. Many expect France's relations with the Arab world to cool with the departure of Chirac, who was a close friend of Hariri and supporter of Lebanon, formerly a French protectorate.

But Hariri's son, Saad, told reporters after the meeting that Sarkozy pledged to "continue the relations between Lebanon and France in the same manner as in the past with President Chirac." He said Sarkozy backed the idea of an international tribunal to investigate his father's killing.

Sarkozy and Chirac — onetime allies who have had tense ties in recent years — did not speak publicly after the meeting.

Anti-Sarkozy protests continued, though the postelection unrest that has left more than 1,200 cars burned around the country appeared to be ebbing.

About 150 students occupied a branch of the University of Paris in the south of the capital on Thursday, said university officials, who decided to temporarily shut down the premises.

Late Wednesday, hundreds of far-left protesters marched through Paris' Latin Quarter. Riot police detained dozens of people while enforcing a buffer zone between the protesters and far-right activists holding a commemoration nearby, officials said.

Sarkozy's abrasive language, tough line on crime and immigration, and proposals to weaken labor protections have angered many on the left and in rundown housing projects that erupted in riots in 2005. Despite his solid victory over Socialist Segolene Royal, many predict his reform plans will be challenged by street protests and other resistance.

Sarkozy gathered Thursday with lawmakers from his conservative party to plan for next month's legislative elections, which are crucial to those reforms.

The party currently has a large majority in both houses of parliament but must keep it that way if Sarkozy wants to follow through quickly on ambitious plans to cut taxes, reform labor laws and minimize the effect of France's frequent strikes.

Sarkozy then joined Chirac for a poignant ceremony in Paris' Luxembourg Gardens, where Chirac unveiled a chain-like sculpture in honor of victims of slavery, 159 years after France abolished the practice. Chirac announced the national commemoration day last year, soon after the 2005 riots, which raised questions about France's model of integrating minorities and the lingering scars of its colonial past.

Sarkozy takes over May 16 from Chirac, who is leaving after 12 years in office.

Sarkozy elected French president

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI/ PARIS, May 6: Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy won France's presidential election on Sunday, beating his Socialist rival Segolene Royal by a comfortable margin, television projections said.

Sarkozy won 53 per cent votes as compared to 47 per cent by Royal, the first woman ever to be in the race for the top job.

Sarkozy's face flashed up on television screens after polling stations closed at 8 p.m. (11.30 pm IST), signalling his victory and setting off jubilant scenes among supporters gathered in central Paris.

The French embassy in New Delhi showed the live telecast of the election mood in France on giant TV screen.

Across the city at Socialist headquarters there was gloom and sorrow after the party crashed to its third consecutive presidential election defeat. It now faces the prospect of tough internal reform to make itself more appealing to voters.

Although opinion polls regularly suggested voters preferred Royal, who was seeking to become France's first woman head of state, they saw the uncompromising Sarkozy as a more competent leader with a more convincing economic program.

Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, presented himself as the "candidate of work," promising to loosen the 35-hour work week by offering tax breaks on overtime and to trim fat from the public service, cut taxes and wage war on unemployment.

He is expected to take office on May 16 or 17, and will be the first French president to be born after World War Two.

He will then name a new government and immediately launch into campaigning for June's parliamentary election, where he will seek a clear majority to implement his reform plans.

The president is elected for five years, is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, nominates the prime minister, has the right to dissolve the National Assembly and is responsible for foreign and defense policies.

Quotes from Nicolas Sarkozy and rival Segolene Royal

PARIS: Quotes from the speech of conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, elected on Sunday as France's next president, and Socialist rival Segolene Royal.

Nicolas Sarkozy:

_``The French people have chosen change. This change I will put into place.''

_``Tonight is not the victory of one France over an other.''

_ France's ``American friends ... can count on our friendship. I want to tell them France will always be by their side when they need. But I also want to tell them that friendship means accepting that friends can have different opinions.''

_``We want ... to help Africa beat disease, famine, poverty and to live in peace.''

_France ``will be at the side ... of all those who are persecuted by tyranny, by dictators.''

Segolene Royal:

_``I thank from the bottom of my heart the nearly 17 million voters, citizens, who showed confidence in me, and I measure their disappointment and their pain. But I say that something has risen that will not stop.''

_``I have started a profound renewal of political life, of its methods and of the left.''

_``The high participation rate translates into a renewal of our democracy and notably for youth everywhere in the country .... Bravo to all these youth for their civic commitment which reminds the Republic about the duties of respect and equality it has toward them.''

_``What we started together we will continue together. You can count on me to continue the renovation of the left .... It is the condition of our future victories.''

_``What we tried to do for France will bear fruit, I am sure. Together we will keep hope alive.''

Its Sarkozy Vs Royal

Sarkozy and RoyalPARIS, April 23: Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Segolene Royal appeared headed Sunday to a presidential runoff, according to preliminary results and pollsters' projections, setting up a stark choice between one of France's most intensely ambitious politicians and a liberal who would be the country's first female leader.

Four polling agencies put Sarkozy ahead of Royal, and both of them in the May 6 runoff, eliminating the 10 other first-round candidates. A preliminary result from the Interior Ministry, based on a count of 12.5 million votes, had Sarkozy leading with 30 percent, followed by Royal with 24 percent.

Turnout was over 80 percent, the polling agencies said, nearing the record of 84.8 percent set for a first round in 1965. The intense interest testified to the high stakes for France and the personalities — inspiring for some, divisive for others — involved in an election that was wrapped in surprises and suspense.

Sarkozy won 29-30 percent and Royal 25-26 percent of the vote, leaving competitors far behind, according to the projections.

If the results confirm that, France will get its first president born after World War II after the May 6 final round. If she wins, Royal will become France's first woman president.

Right until Sunday, France was kept guessing whether farmer's son and lawmaker Francois Bayrou, who soared in opinion polls by promising a middle course between left and right, would best Royal or Sarkozy. But pollsters' projections placed him third, with about 18 percent of the vote.

Voters seized on the election as an opportunity to steer their nuclear-armed but anxious nation on a new course, after 12 years under Jacques Chirac. The 74-year-old incumbent did not seek re-election, stepping aside for a new generation of candidates with iPods, a taste for rock and rap music and no memory of a Europe at war.

Many voters also were determined to avoid a repeat of the shame that they felt in 2002, when a record low turnout helped Jean-Marie Le Pen, an extreme-right nationalist with repeat convictions for anti-Semitic and racist comments, slip through into the runoff. Even voters on the left rallied around the conservative Chirac to keep Le Pen from power in that vote, and he was trounced.

On Sunday, many were determined not to make the same mistake. Pollsters placed Le Pen fourth, with around 11 percent of the vote. That would be his lowest score in all but one of his five election campaigns.

Educating employees on AIDS -- French firms take lead

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, April 19: The dreadful disease AIDS has been playing around the world, including. To make people aware of it, the French Embassy in collaboration with UNAIDS and ILO organised here an information campaign on “Response to HIV/AIDS at workplace” at a meeting with CEOs of a number of French companies.

Mr. Eric Pierrat said, “Around 300 French companies* in India provide employment to more than 45,000 people, most of whom are Indians.

To make a point, it was pointed out that the rate of AIDS infection in the country is just below one per cent. A rough calculation shows that around 400 of these employees could be affected with HIV/AIDS.

It was explained that these startling figures only make a point. May be none of these employees are affected by Aids.

However, it was said coordinating and implementing the HIV/AIDS prevention programme at the company level is essential.

Dr. Denis Broun, Country Coordinator, UNAIDS spoke of the necessity of spreading basic facts about AIDS/HIV in his report, “Generalities on HIV/AIDS” aimed at creating awareness about HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI).

He presented a fact-file of the Indian epidemic: over 5.7 million people live with HIV; nearly two-thirds of HIV infections are in the six high-prevalence states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Manipur and Nagaland.

“It was in the interest of companies to provide awareness on AIDS to their employees. Prevention is the need of the hour,” said Mr. S.M. Afsar of ILO. An urgent response to HIV/AIDS at workplace is required, educate employees and ultimately remove the myths about AIDS and seropositive people, he further added.

In conclusion, the urgent need to implement a workplace policy and programme at the Embassy as well as at the company level was appreciated by all.

Encouraged, the French Embassy and ILO wishes to pursue its commitment to this cause by organizing a training programme on HIV/AIDS to some selected employees of the French Companies who could further educate and train their colleagues at the corporate level. This training programme is scheduled for June 28 and 29, 2007.

France asks India to reduce import duties on wines, luxury goods

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 30: French Trade Minister Christine Lagarde has asked New Delhi to reduce “high” import duties on wines and spirit to enable more investments by French wine companies in India.

Speaking to newsmen here on Friday, Ms Lagarde said “we are facing huge tariff and non-tariff barriers, which is why only three companies (of the 68 big wine firms) have invested in India.”

Earlier, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath also emphasised on the fact that India should address the issue of high tariffs in the import of wine and spirit.

"We do recognise that duties on wines are high. We are looking at lowering tariffs. We are in the advanced of negotiations and the issue will be addressed," Kamal Nath said while addressing the Hindustan Times Mint Luxury Conference.

The European Union has already complained against India at the World Trade Organisation on the high tariffs. An EU Commission report last year said a combination of import duties and taxes reached as high as 550 percent on imported spirits and 264 percent on imported wines.

Nath, however, was confident the issue would be addressed through negotiations. While expressing his willingness on cut duties, Nath also said Europe must accept imports of India whiskey.

At present, the European Union does not recognise Indian whiskey as such as it is made of molasses. According to the definition of World Customs Organisation, only spirits made from grain can be called whiskey.

Lagarde said: “What matters are overall reduced duties on goods. I hope we reach a comprehensive agreement.”

A European spirits producers organisation has said EU exports of spirits to India were just 43 million euros ($57 million) in 2005 and wine exports were 7 million euros.

The Indian government is likely to move a bill in Parliament this month to lower customs duty on imported wines and spirits in the wake of the stepped up pressure. This would also pave the way for cheaper retail prices of these beverages in the domestic market.

The finance ministry is expected to draw up a proposal which will be taken to the Cabinet for approval. The bill is likely to come when Parliament meets after a three-week recess, according to a senior official.

The visiting Minister, who is also leading a delegation of delegation of Comité Colbert brands (Baccarat, Chanel, Hermès, Jeanne Lanvin, Lalique, Louis Vuitton, Lancôme, Martell), also sought reduction in duties on luxury goods.

Mr Kamal Nath said the government was open to reducing duties on imports of luxury products in a way which does not impact the domestic market.

"If the industry comes up with some items on which duties can be brought down without hurting the local industry, we will be happy to look at it," he said.

He said India has high tariffs on imports of items like textiles and leather products because it does not want cheap imports from countries like China to swamp the local market.

The Comité aims at promoting the cultural values of its member fashion houses, and highlighting the specificities of the French concept of luxury which sets its brands apart from non-French ones, making France a leader in this sector.

The trip to India marks the Comité Colbert’s maiden participation in the Hindustan Times Luxury Conference 2007 “India: captivating the world”, whose programme it helped develop.

Founded in 1954 at the initiative of Jean-Jacques Guerlain, the Comité Colbert, an association governed by the French law of 1901, has a membership of 68 fashion houses. The objective of its members is to collectively promote their shared values in France and internationally, seeking to combine tradition and modernity, craftsmanship and creativity, history and innovation.

Through its visit to India, the Comité Colbert also seeks to draw the Indian government’s attention to market access issues. Believing that creative diversity gives a fillip to the fashion industry, the Comité seeks to encourage the creation of sister organizations in countries such as India, given its potential.

Thus, in 2006, the Comité Colbert signed an MoU with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to create a working group, which convened its very first meeting on March 29.


One of the leading French fashion house, Louis Vuitton, announced that it would be setting up its third individual outlet in the capital soon. Currently, Louis Vuitton has one outlet each in Mumbai and Delhi.

The scarf, leather ware and jewellery maker Hermes has decided to open its first store in Delhi in 2008.

"We are talking to a few Indian fashion houses to become out minority partners. We would be retailing all our products to the customers here," Hermes International Executive Vice President Christian Blanckaert said.

Another French firm, Estee Lauder would introduce the 'Donna Karan' range of fragrances and sell other products like its colour cosmetic line 'M-A-C' and skin-care brand 'Clinique'.

Estee Lauder Group President Patrick Bouquet-Chavanne said, his company is talking to big Indian retail players including Shoppers' Stop for forging alliances.

"We are looking at opportunities to sell our range of products," he said.

Jean Paul Gaultier, known for its beauty products, apparel and accessories, would bring here its ready-to-wear garments to the country.

"The company would retail its entire range of products in India, except its haute couture line, which is sold exclusively in Paris," Jean Paul Gaultier CEO Christophe Caillaud said.

Nath said since allowing FDI in single brand retail sector last year, as many as 26 proposals have been received. Of these, 12 have been approved and three rejected, while 11 proposals were still under consideration.

He asked big luxury brands to help take the Indian brands on global stage.

Lagarde, who was also present on the occasion, offered French expertise on registration of Indian designs so that their creators can get maximum value.

Terming France and India's trade relations as a “honeymoon”, Ms Lagarde said there has been a 37 percent increase in exports from France to India. “The overall trade stands at slightly below five billion euros and there are 400 French companies set up in India,” she said.

Lagarde said that India was one of the top five countries that France was targeting for investments and exports.

“We are looking at encouraging more trade between the two countries by giving tax incentives, bonafide support and co-financing companies in trade fairs. Over 10 luxury houses from France are here today because of the belief and the confidence in the Indian market,” she said.

She also said France has recently liberalised its visa regime with an objective to attract highly qualified Indians. Nath, however, wanted France to liberalise its rules for short-term visas so that Indian IT companies can send people there to provide services.

On the immigration issue, Lagarde said: “We realised that only two percent of visas were issued to Indians although we were expecting as much as 15 percent. We have decided to relax visa requirements.”

In the evening, the French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, threw a welcome party for the visiting French Trade Minister and her delegation.

In his welcome speech, Ambassador Girard said: "India is surely becoming a fashion hub and we are organising a lot of exchange programmes for designers of both the countries to strengthen our cultural relations."

Mahindra Renault launches Logan

MUMBAI, April 3: France's Renault SA on Tuesday introduced its low-cost Logan sedan in India through a joint venture with local automaker Mahindra & Mahindra, boosting competition in the fast growing Indian car market.

The base model of the gasoline-powered version of Logan will cost 428,000 rupees (US$9,700) in Mumbai, while that of the diesel version will be available for 547,000 rupees (US$12,400), said a statement from Mahindra Renault Ltd., a joint venture between the Indian and the French automakers.

Prices vary across Indian cities, depending on local taxes. The gasoline version comes with engines of 1.4 liters and 1.6 liters, while the diesel version has a 1.5-liter engine.

The pricing, which the manufacturer described as "aggressive", places Logan in competition with mid-size sedans from South Korean car maker Hyundai Motor Co., homegrown Tata Motors Ltd. and the country's largest car maker _ the Suzuki Motor Inc.-controlled Maruti Udyog Ltd.

Logan will be available in six colours - Toreador Red, Fiery Black, Sahara Beige, Mist Silver, Turf Green and Diamond White.

India's car market is dominated by small hatchbacks, but rapidly growing middle class incomes has fueled demand for low-cost sedans.

"The Logan is a milestone for us as it marks our entry into the most competitive segment of the automotive market," said Anand Mahindra, chief executive of Mahindra & Mahindra.

Orders will be taken for Logans in 10 Indian cities in two weeks and extend to another 15 cities in May, the statement said.

Tuesday's launch "marks the start of Renault sales on the Indian market and sees the first right-hand drive version of Logan created to meet the needs of our Indian customers," said Carlos Ghosn, president & CEO of Renault.

The French company has seen its profits surge because of the success of Logan, which is mostly made in Romania.

In India, the wide-bodied sedan will rolled out from a plant in the town of Nasik, which has capacity to manufacture 50,000 vehicles annually.

Mahindra Renault is also collaborating with Japan's Nissan Motor Co. _ in which the French auto maker holds 44 percent stake _ building a bigger plant near the southern Indian city of Chennai.

The three companies are together investing about US $ 900 million in that plant, which will be completed in the second half of 2009 and will have capacity to manufacture 400,000 vehicles, including the Logan.

Global automakers have been stepping up efforts to increase their presence in India, where the economy is growing close 9 percent annually and demand for cars is strong, thanks to rising middle class incomes and easier access to loans.

French set rail speed record: 357.2 mph

ABOARD TRAIN V150, France, April 3- The speedometer climbed higher and higher — and so did my heart rate. Inside the last of three double-decker cars sandwiched between two engines, those of us aboard the French bullet train trying to set the speed record on conventional rails watched the digital numbers flash on a screen in kilometers per hour: 400, 450, 500, 550

Looking out the windows, the French countryside became a green blur.

Then the magic number appeared: 574.8 kph, or 357.2 mph — faster than any humans had ever traveled in a train on rails. As fast as an airplane, but on the ground.

The air pressure made my ears ache.

Frankly, I was happy when it was over — and not because the journey quite literally ended in Champagne.

The chrome and black V150 looked majestic as its engines hummed on the platform near the town of Preny, east of Paris, before Tuesday's record run.

For its mission to break the speed record, the train was modified with a 25,000-horsepower engine, and adjustments also were made to the track, notably the banking on turns. The rails were treated so the wheels could make perfect contact, and electrical power in the overhead cable was increased from 25,000 volts to 31,000 volts.

The V150 was equipped with larger wheels than the normal French TGV — or "train a grande vitesse" — to cover more ground with each rotation, said Alain Cuccaroni, in charge of the technical aspects of testing. French TGVs normally cruise at about 185 mph.

But this was more than a stunt. The demonstration was meant to showcase technology that France wants to sell to multibillion-dollar overseas markets such as China.

In Preny, tension aboard the V150 mounted as the doors closed — it was too late to turn back. Alstom Transports, which built the train, transformed the passenger cars into a laboratory for the event so technicians could gather data to improve future TGVs.

As the train quickly gathered speed on a new rail line to open in June between Paris and Strasbourg, we watched a mini-pendulum suspended by reporters to gauge the train's sway. Journalists were not buckled in, but were told not to move because we might interfere with live television broadcasts from the train.

When we hit 242 mph, it felt like an airplane taking off. The pressure sent pains through my ears as we rocketed past applauding and cheering crowds on bridges and adjacent country roads.

Outside, the train roared by like a jet, sparks spit from the overhead power lines and a trail of dust sprayed out behind.

Inside, the pendulum swung widely, and the train shook and roared.

We soon broke the 1990 record of 320.2 mph — also set by a French train.

Then, near the village of Le Chemin, we hit the record of 357.2 mph. The train was speeding far faster than a passenger jet taking off. In fact, we kept up with planes flying overhead taking photos.

I thought we were about to derail.

Only 15 minutes had passed since we departed.

Officials aboard applauded, and the train immediately slowed. In comparison to its record, its cruising speed of around 190 mph felt escargot-paced.

"There are about 10,000 engineers who would want to be in my place," said the operator, Eric Pieczac. "It makes me very happy, a mixed feeling of pride and honor to be able to reach this speed."

Alstom Transports President Philippe Mellier said before the test that it would try to outdo the record of 361 mph set in 2003 by Japan's non-conventional magnetically levitated train. But in the end, the French train fell just 4 mph short.

Pierre-Louis Rochet, former head of French state-run rail network SNCF's international division, said this may be as fast as it gets on standard rails.

"There is no interest" in going faster, since after that "the costs will increase too much," said Rochet, now rail director for international engineering firm Arcadis.

China plans to build more than 7,500 miles of high-speed railways in coming years at a cost of more than $250 billion. Construction is to start this year on a high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai cutting travel time from nine hours to five.

France competes with Germany and with Japan for contracts. Earlier Tuesday, Transport Minister Dominique Perben received California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. The state is studying prospects for a high-speed line from Sacramento to San Diego, via San Francisco and Los Angeles.

When we reached our destination at Champagne-Ardennes train station, people cracked open bottles of champagne — slicing the necks with swords, a French tradition.

Technicians on the train had "French excellence" emblazoned on their T-shirts, and President Jacques Chirac agreed, praising the record as "a magnificent demonstration of France's formidable capacities in research and innovation."

A few other people on the train described it as a "nice" ride — but most of us were glad to get off.

The whole experience left my knees shaky.

Then, the final flourish: we were given a survivors' certificate.

"Ingrid Rousseau participated in a journey at very high speed," it read. "This train established a new world speed record on rails April 3, 2007: 574.8 km/h."

Iraq war shattered America's image: Villepin

CAMBRIDGE (Massachusetts), March 17: French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the United States should pull out of Iraq within one year and work with Iraq's neighbours and Europe to resolve the crisis.

Villepin, in a speech Friday at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said the situation in Iraq would grow ``even more dangerous'' unless a framework is established for ending the crisis that included ``a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.''

``I believe that it should take place within a year,'' Villepin said. ``That will allow Iraqis to feel that their future is in their hands and put them back on the path of national sovereignty.'' The Bush administration has opposed any timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Villepin also said the United States' true strength ``isn't its army.'' The United States in the 20th century constructed an economic and cultural model ``and forged an ideal of modernity that inspired the admiration of the rest of the world,'' he said.

``For us you represented the camp of freedom. You were the guarantors of human rights,'' Villepin said.

But the U.S.-led war in Iraq marked a turning point, he said.

``It shattered America's image. It undermined the image of the West as a whole. It is time for the United States and Europe to regain together the respect and admiration of other peoples,'' Villepin said.

Chirac says he will not be a candidate for president

Jacques ChiracPARIS, March 12: French President Jacques Chirac effectively retired from electoral politics when he announced late on Sunday that he will not be a candidate for a third term.

"At the end of the mandate which you gave me, the moment will have come to serve you in another way," Chirac said in a pre-recorded statement shown on national television and added "I will not seek your votes for another mandate."

The 74-year-old Chirac leaves frontline politics after serving 12 years as head of the French state and spending 40 years in elected office and various posts at the highest levels of the government.

Although the decision was widely expected, it removes a lingering doubt about the 2007 presidential election, which now looks to be a race between three representatives of a new generation of politicians, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal and centrist Francois Bayrou.

In the 10-minute statement, Chirac listed the accomplishments of his two terms of office of which he was most proud, including the defence of the principles of secularism and the decline in the rate of unemployment, which Chirac said was "at its lowest level in 25 years."

In addition, Chirac counselled the French to "never compromise with extremism, racism, anti-semitism. It is a poison. It divides. It perverts. It destroys."

Chirac also urged his compatriots to think again about their rejection of the EU Constitutional Treaty, which they voted down in a national referendum in May 2005.

"It is vital to pursue the construction of Europe," he said. "Nationalism, which has done so much evil to our continent, could be reborn at any moment."

The defeat of the treaty was one of the worst defeats of Chirac's political career. At the EU summit in Brussels the previous week, Chirac apologized for not having done more to prevent the rejection of the EU constitution.

Chirac's career in politics goes back to 1962, when he was appointed to a minor post in the government of Prime Minister Georges Pompidou. Five years later, Chirac was first elected to office, as deputy for the southern department of Correze.

He became Farms Minister in 1972, then Interior Minister two years later, a post at which he served only three months before being named Prime Minister under President Valery Giscard D'Estaing.

He was elected as Mayor of Paris in 1977, and was re-elected twice, leaving the post in 1995, when he won the presidency in his third attempt, defeating Socialist Lionel Jospin.

In 2002, he won re-election in a landslide, garnering more than 80 per cent of the vote against right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen.

His last term was a difficult one. It virtually began with the attempt of a young right-wing extremist to assassinate him during the Bastille Day parade in Paris

On May 29, 2005, the French voted down the EU constitution. In September 2005, he suffered a minor stroke and was unable to carry out the demands of his office for several weeks.

In late October and November of the same year, frustrated minority youth rioted for three weeks throughout the country, burning more than 10,000 cars and several buildings.

Chirac's term ends on May 17. It remains unclear what role he will choose to play after that date as France's elder statesman.

Anjolie Ela Menon receives French award

By Deepak Arora

Pix: Noyanika Arora

NEW DELHI, March 7: The most prestigious French award for art and letters was conferred on veteran Indian artist Anjolie Ela Menon here on Wednesday.

French Ambassador to India Dominique Girard conferred 'Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres' (Knight of the Order of Art and Letters) on Menon in the presence of luminaries from the world of art and culture and her family members at a ceremony at French embassy here.

Receiving the award, Menon recalled how her exposure to best of artists in France shaped her career.

The award is a recognition of her contribution to the development of Indo-French cooperation in the field of art.

Known for her works which have been acquired by several museums in India and abroad including the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Benjamin Gray Museum, Peabody Essex Museum and the Asian Arts Museum in San Francisco, the French Ambassador said Anjolie Ela Menon's association with France spans from the sixties when she joined the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris on a French government scholarship.

She has had over 45 solo shows in India, America, Russia, Germany, Hong Kong, France and England. She has been a trustee of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and served on the advisory committee and art purchase committee of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.


The 'Knight of the Order of Art and Letters' is conferred on "Persons who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the field of art, culture and literature or for their contribution to the influence of the arts in France and throughout the world."

Some personalities who have been awarded this honour include noted film critic and editor Aruna Vadudev, academician Dr Alka Pande and Chairman of Triveni Industries Dhruv Sawhney.

The ‘Four Motors for Europe’ delegation in India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 21: The best of European environmental experts from six major Regions from Europe, Baden-Württemberg (Germany), Catalonia(Spain), Lombardy (Italy), Rhône-Alpes (France), Flanders (Belgium) and Wales(United Kingdom) are here with political leaders, performing companies and scientific consultants, to share their environmental expertise and technologies.

The Regions of the ‘Four Motors for Europe’, all leading regions in their respective countries, share many common features, such as economic power, expertise in leading-edge sectors, research potential, renowned Schools and Universities, tourist appeal, and strong environmental ambitions.

They decided to run joint actions, under a unique cooperation venture called ‘Four Motors for Europe’, to promote their economic and environmental potential within the European Union and outside its borders.

In India, the ‘Four Motors for Europe’ delegation are taking part in the ‘FICCI Environment Conclave’ here, with business-to-business meetings, political interventions, best practices, and new business opportunities.

The two-day Environment Conclave was inaugurated by the Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy on Tuesday morning.

At a reception held at the French Ambassador’s residence on Tuesday, Head of European Delegation, French Senator Jean Besson stressed on the need for further cooperation on the environment front with India.

French Ambassador Dominique Girard said this mission is also a symbol of our continent, which is opening up to India not only with the ambition of creating new economic and business partnerships, but also with the determination to strengthen our political and institutional ties.


The FICCI Environment Conclave, since its inception in 2005, has been successful in creating widespread awareness on the current status of waste management in India, the waste management regulatory framework, business opportunities, case studies, necessary technology linkages and public private partnership models.

The deliberations of the previous two Conclaves have highlighted new methods of waste handling, new challenges confronting stakeholders and newer opportunities arising out of waste management, signifying the thrust accorded to waste management by different stakeholders.

Conclave 2007 is deliberating on the issues, challenges and enablers for facilitating a waste management market in India. Waste generation sources today have realized the significant business potential that they can harness by reusing, recycling, recovering or trading the waste.

Issues that have engaged the attention of policymakers, administrators and waste management gurus such as composting, landfill development, waste-to-energy options, decentralised wastewater treatment, fuel options from hazardous waste, contaminated site remediation, plastic waste, and more recently, electronic waste and auto industry waste would be the subject of discussions at Conclave 2007.

The Conclave would also dwell on the scope of privatisation of solid waste management in India and highlight successful public private partnership models.

Conclave 2007 would bring on board a large international presence from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, USA and other countries to provide an insight into waste management best practices, success stories, technological innovations and regulatory mechanisms that have created dynamic waste markets in these regions.

Indo-French Alumni Network Launched

By Deepak & Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 17: During the Higher Education in France week, organized by Edufrance in India, the French Ambassador Dominique Girard launched "!FAN", "Indo-French Alumni Network". The very first meet took place at the Alliance Française of Delhi on Saturday.

The launch, which was attended by former prominent Alumni members including artist Anjoli Ela Menon, followed by a lively DJ performance by DJ Iggy and DJ Yom.

!FAN means some five thousand exceptional individuals who have undertaken all or part of their higher education in France.
They studied in the most prestigious French institutes: from the Fine Arts School to Arts and Crafts, through great universities like the Sorbonne, as well as the university-level schools of commerce and management like ESSEC, HEC, INSEAD, schools for high-level governmental jobs, like the Ecole Normale Supérieure, the Institute of Political Studies (IEP), National Administration School (ENA).

In some cases, they already form part of an alumni club or association, brought together in India by their interest for French culture.


To fuse these initiatives, "!FAN" will form a “network of networks’’ to help them track each other, re-establish useful contacts, check out vacancies or information on their careers, consolidate their relations with companies that may need them and institutes for higher education, where they could eventually study.

Hosted on the website, the dedicated Internet site "!FAN" will offer spaces for discussion, information and mutual help.

During the inaugural funtion, themes such as job opportunities, higher education and research, language and culture, business, and mutual aid formed the basis of the nascent network, along with the participation of the Cultural and Cooperation Service of the French Embassy.

France confers highest award on Amitabh Bachchan

By Deepak Arora

Dominique Girard and Amitabh BachchanNEW DELHI, Jan 27: The French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, is not only concerned about selling aircrafts and submarines, but is also working for the development of the friendly political relationship between India and France and helping promote India’s legitimate claims in the international arena.

France is a country who stubbornly, adamantly, believes that values are more important than interests. It’s a country that believes that culture is as important, and maybe even more important, than politics, both as the foundation of societies and as a foundation of understanding and friendship among nations.

It is in this spirit that the French Government bestowed the highest award “the Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (Officer of the Legion of Honour) on Hindi film superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

The French Ambassador conferred the medal, shaped like a five-sided, double-pointed star, on Amitabh Bachchan at a glittering ceremony at the French Embassy here on Saturday.

"I am truly humbled by the award. It is not a personal achievement but that of Indian cinema. The award also indicates that India has arrived forcefully on the global scene," said Amitabh in emotional voice after receiving the honour.

Dressed in a black `bandhgala', Amitabh said Indian cinema was accepted unconditionally as a "vivid, multihued'' texture of the tapestry of the country. He said “our cinema has evolved in consonance with the nation's progress. When the national economy has made a leap forward, so has cinema.'' he said.

Amitabh said it was indeed gratifying to witness that during his own lifetime Indian cinema has created its own parallel culture just as France did, a culture that exhibits the strength of the relationship between our two countries.

Paying glowing tributes to Amitabh from "Saat Hindustani'' to "Sholay'' and even his "Kaun Banega Crorepati" days, Ambassador Girard said: "Amitabh Bachchan is a unique symbol in India. An ideal husband, he is the father of two wonderful children and the star of all times. Women and men are both under his charm.''

The Ambassador said "this is to mark his achievements spanning an illustrious period," and added that Bachchan was given the award for his "contribution to Indian and international culture."

"We chose Amitabh Bachchan for the honour because we always have respect and esteem for world-class artists. The French at large may not be experts of Indian cinema but they all know Satayjit Ray as they know Amitabh Bachchan. He is a milestone in the history of the Indian entertainment industry," said Amabassdor Girard.

Amitabh Bachchan with familyThe entire Bachchan clan was present. Wife Jaya Bachchan wore a pink sari. Son Abhishek was seen with his trademark hair band and fiancée Aishwarya Rai was attired in icy green sari.

Daughter Shweta Nanda with hubby and children was also present much to the delight of chosen few invited for the soiree.

A film 'March of the Penguins', directed by French director Luc Jacquet, for which Bachchan has given a Hindi voice over was also screened on the occasion.

Earlier, the Oscar-winning documentary, 'Penguins, A Love Story', directed by French director Luc Jacquet, was screened. Big B has given the background narration for the film, both in English and Hindi for the Indian audience. The film will be released commercially in early April in India.

Actress Romane Bohringer (voice over for the French portion of the film), founders and managers Christophe Lioud and Yves Darondeau of Bonne Pioche, the production company, Mr. Manmohan Shetty, Adlabs Films, distributors and Sunil Doshi, Alliance, Indian rights holder of the movie were present on this occasion.

Created to reward eminent military and civil merits in the service of France, Legion d'Honneur is the highest distinction that can be conferred to a French citizen or a foreigner. The award was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.

Among the eminent Indian personalities who have received the honour are late filmmaker Satyajit Ray in 1987, sitar maestro Ravi Shankar in 2000 and environmentalist R.K. Pachauri in 2006.

Bachchan is well known in many countries around the world. The BBC Online voted him as the 'Star of the millennium' in 2000, above Hollywood greats like Sir Lawrence Olivier and Charlie Chaplin.

Popularly known as Big B, the 64-yar-old star has dominated Indian cinema since he quit his job as a freight broker in Calcutta and joined Bollywood more than three decades ago.

Alka Pande conferred French award; 'The New Age Kama Sutra For Women' launched

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 12: The French Government has conferred coveted Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres - Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters - award upon noted Indian author and academician Alka Pande.

The French government instituted the award in 1957 to recognise significant contributions in the fields of art and literature.

The French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, bestowed the award upon Alka Pande at a glittering function attended by stalwarts from the art, political and corporate world at the French embassy here.

Ambassador Girard said "Alka has done immense work in the field of art and literature and has brought many laurels for the country. Her work is a true reflection of how rich the Indian culture is."

The Ambassador also launched Pande's latest book - "The New-Age Kamasutra for Women". The book is published by "Brijbasi Art Press Ltd".

Receiving the award, Alka said "This day marks a very special moment in my life." Alka is also a consultant art advisor and curator of the Visual Art Gallery at the India Habitat Centre here.

"I have been asked time and again by many as to why I write on a subject like Kamasutra and the intricacies of a relationship between man and woman. It's because when I started research on the subject, I felt that this is the beginning of creativity and the world," said Pande, who is also a reader in the department of fine arts, Punjab University.

The art historian has also written "Ardhanarishvara - The Androgyne" that dealt with the intricacies of both genders.

The French Government confers several distinctions, among which the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) is conferred on "persons who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the field of art, culture and literature or for their contribution to the influence of the arts in France and throughout the world."

Other Indians who received the French honour include film critic Aruna Vasudev, Dhruv Sawhney, the Triveni Industries' chairman, Mallika Sarabhai, Alarmel Valli, Amjad Ali Khan, Ashok Vajpeyi, Ravi Kumar, Habib Tanvir, NM Sharma, Nirmal Varma, Mrinal Sen, Raja Rao, Paritosh Sen, Raza, Sharmila Tagore and Arundhati Roy.

On the book, Alka said "my mom was shocked to know that I'm writing on this subject." Ambassador Dominique Girard, said, "This book is a must-have for all those who have an interest in this topic."

Later, Lakshmi Vishvanathan gave a short Bhartnatyam performance. The other highlights of the evening included a multimedia presentation by Deepak Raghavan, a visual arts presentation by Payal Khandwallah and an installation by Seema Kohli.

The New Age Kama Sutra for Women has been written from the gaze of a woman and it attempts not only to celebrate and articulate the sensitivities of the 21st Century woman but also tries to bring out the essence of being a complete woman and live the life of a complete woman.

Says Alka Pande: "The New Age Kamsutra for Women is not about judgments or opinions but evolves and emerges from the observed behaviors. It is as much for the males as for the female; it is about sharing and caring, and bringing them together in fruitful union. While each couple plays its own role, evolves its own balances, some basic formulas are common to all, and often the mundane and the forgotten ones can weave in a magic and an excitement in a relationship-thus the kama sutra."

India, France endorse call to raise trade turnover to US $ 10 billion

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: Indian and France have expressed confidence in doubling and surpassing the bilateral trade turnover target of US $ 7 billion in the next five years from the current level of $ 3.5 billion, by stepping up business-to-business ties between Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

India's Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr. Kamal Nath and the French Minister for Foreign Trade, Ms. Christine Lagarde, endorsed the FICCI President, Mr. Saroj Kumar Poddar's call for making all-out efforts to raise the bilateral trade engagement to US$ 10 billion in the next five years.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the 'Indo-French Business Meeting 2006', organized by FICCI here today, Mr. Nath said the presence of 217 French businessmen, half of them representing SMEs in sectors such as manufacturing, IT, pharmaceutical, environment, aeronautics, life sciences and food processing testified to the fact that the French mean

He sought the cooperation of the French side in developing and modernizing India's food processing sector as the demand gets stimulated by changing socio-economic situations like rapid urbanization, bias towards nuclear families and greater work participation among women. He said street food offered by vendors is an area that could be targeted for systematic evelopment by the food processing industry.

"We are serious about having a strategy in partnership with industry to regulate the development of this sector and in this endeavour, we would be all to happy to seek the cooperation of the French business."

Mr. Nath said the sectors represented by the French delegation were those to which India attached great importance. In the area of environment, he said, I could take advantage of France's expertise in implementing Clean Development Mechanism projects.

Elaborating on India's demographic dividend, the Minister pointed out that India was a young nation and its youthful work force was known for its industriousness and intelligence and was available at a cheaper price than elsewhere.

The French Foreign Trade Minister, Ms. Christine Lagarde, said the largest-ever French business delegation comprising 217 business representatives and 1,000 Indian company representatives who were meeting over 2,000 scheduled appointment goes to show that bilateral trade is set to rise. This will give a fillip to investment and people-to-people contact from both sides.

She said France had targeted India as one of the five countries for enhanced trade and investment cooperation and "we will deliver on the promise of doubling the number of French companies operating in India as also those in the SME sector."

Later while addressing a press conference jointly with Mr. Kamal Nath, the French Foreign Trade Minister said France welcomed FDO, and investment from overseas under the rule of law. There are no obstacles or hindrances to Indian investment, she said.

The FICCI President, Mr. Saroj Kumar Poddar, said the Indian business community remained committed to contnie the ongoing engagement in Indo-French relations in the known territory as also to explore the exciting and unknown terrain of hidden potential in areas such as education, environment, energy, infrastructure, software services and agro processing.

Neemrana Music Foundation launches DVD of 'The Pearl Fishers'

By Deepak Arora

Pix By Noyanika

NEW DELHI, Nov 23: The Neemrana Music Foundation (TNMF), in collaboration with Bel Air Media, a leading French Film Production Company, has launched the DVD of the opera "The Pearl Fishers" by Georges Bizet at a glittering function at the French emabssy.

To celebrate the launch of the DVD, the French Ambassador, Mr. Dominique Girard, hosted a reception which was attended by who's who of Delhi.

The first copy of the DVD was released, along with Mr. Francis Wacziarg, Founder and Managing Trustee, TNMF, Mr. Antoine Redon, Programmes Coodinator, TNMF, and Mr. François Duplat, Executive Producer, Bel Air Media, France.

"Operas are very Bollywood-ish with elements of love, tragedy and drama, so I think the Indian audience will relate to it," said Ambassador Girard.

On this occasion, 35 singers from TNMF performed choruses from "The Pearl Fishers" and "Carmen" accompanied by ballet by Sadhya, choreographed by Delhi-based Santosh Nair. The conductor of the Neemrana Choir was Ariane Gray Hubert.

"The Pearl Fisher" is recorded 'live' during the performances that took place in Delhi and Mumbai in August and September, 2005. It was recorded by a choir of French, Japanese and Indian singers. This opera is based on a Sri Lankan story.

The DVD of the opera has been priced at Rs 895. "Real music lovers will buy it," insists Francis Wacziarg, founder of The Neemrana Music Foundation, who thinks that the concept of an opera might be new, but the Indian music lovers will love it any which way. The DVD will be available in Sri Lanka as well.

The distribution of the DVD in India is being handled by Living Media Ltd. TNMF, which is primarily involved in music education, will also promote other DVDs of opera performances filmed live in different parts of the world.

The production of the two Indo-French operas, The Fakir of Benares from Leo Manuel, and The Pearl Fishers were great sources of inspiration and its unexpected success was very encouraging to TNMF, the aim of which is to promote Indian and Western Classical Music.

Some of the objectives of the foundation are: To promote classical music in India; To organize classes and workshops, for musicians and singers in which they can interact with artistes from all over the world and to organise and take part in shows, operas, recitals, exhibitions, conferences, seminars on western and Indian classical music in India and abroad.

Societe General Group aggressive on India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 21: A high-level delegation of Societe General Group, led by its Chairman, arrived in India on a week's tour to gain greater appreciation of India's dynamic and exciting economic and cultural landscape, through exchanges with diverse business, political and cultural figures.

'Societe General Group Management Committee' believes in the strong potential of India as a growing force in the global marketplace, and views Asia and India as strategically important to the banks's future development.

India ripe for investment: France

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 17: India has become as important as China as a leading foreign investment destination, says Mr Tanguy du Chene, Head of a 20-member delegation comprising the CEOs of some of the leading banks in France.

Mr Tanguy du Chene, who is also Head of Banque Federale, Paris, said "India is a new and big market for the French small and medium enterprises (SMEs)."
Banque Populaire Group is a leading financial institution in France with a strong retail market franchise. Natexis Banques Populaires is the Group's domestic and international arm for financing, investment banking and financial services.

With a network of some 12,900 employees and 117 offices abroad and leader in private equity in the French SME segment, the delegation is visiting Delhi and Mumbai for eight days to study prospects of building long-term financial partnerships in India, said Mr Jean Pierre Tremblay, Chairman, Banque Populaires Valde.

Mr Tremblay explained that Bank Populaire is a purely cooperative bank with 20 territorial local banks covering whole of France. It is the fourth largest bank group in France. Each local bank is independent and headed by a Chairman.

The popularity of the group can be gauged from the fact that it has 5 million clients in France.

Each year, he said the Group chooses a destination to explore business prospects for the French SMEs. Last year, we had gone to Brazil and before that to China and Russia.
Mr Tremblay said "we are very impressed by India's economic potential."

The French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, said the Group has a big banking network and are very powerful in provinces. "They are instrument in getting business out of France."

During our stay here, Mr Tanguy said "we will interact with specialists in the economic and financial fields and to study the Indian business environment."

On the buoyant sectors between the two countries, he said "we will be looking at energy, wines, pharmaceutical and aviation. We will look at the possibility of partnerships with Indian companies.

Mr Tanguy expressed confidence that as many as 200 French companies could come to India for business.

France to honour Amitabh with highest civilian distinction

NEW DELHI, Oct 11: Superstar Amitabh Bachchan received the perfect birthday present as he turned 64 on Wednesday when the French government announced it would honour him with its highest civilian award, the Officer of the Legion of Honour.

"France has decided to honour Amitabh Bachchan with the honour for his contribution to Indian and international cultural life," a spokesperson of the French Embassy said in New Delhi.
She said the French ambassador will soon discuss with Bachchan the details for conferment of the award.

Tribute to Indo-French intellectual friendship

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 16: Ideas lead the way into a world of ever closer international relations. Ideas make nations. The idea of a country that could be united around fundamental, universal principles of freedom, equal rights, fraternity, made for, and still contribute to the cohesion of France.

This is what the French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, said while releasing the book "Reading Pierre Bourdieu in a dual context -- Essays from India and France".

Mr Girard said the book, which has been edited by renowned Indian sociologist, Prof Meenakshi Thapan, Head of the Sociology Department, Delhi University, and her French colleague, Dr Rolland Lardinois, from the Paris CNRS, "is all at once a symbol of Indo-French intellectual friendship and closeness.

He said "it is also reminder of the vitality of Indo-French academic exchanges and an encouragement for us in our work to promote cooperation between India and France." He said the book also testifies to the interest that so many Indian scholars display in Pierre Bourdieu's sociology.

Others present at the launch evening included Mr Philippe Martinet, French Counsellor for Culture and Cooperation; The Turkmenistan Ambassador, Mr Tchary G Niiazov; Mr Prathik Malhotra, Director, Invest in France Agency; and Mr Yann Toma, President of Ouest-Lumiere.

The book reflects an encounter book between Indian and French scholars, centred around and concerned with the work of Pierre Bourdieu. A detailed introduction by the editors outlines the understanding of Bourdieu's work in a comparative perspective.

It considers the social and intellectual context in which his work was produced - the field of sociology in France in the second half of the 20th century; and a specific milieu in which it was being received - the field of social sciences in India since the 1980s.

Individual articles cover a range of ethnographic sites from rural to contemporary urban India, France and Melanesia, and deal with diverse issues from feminism to the State, from French fiction to the Bombay riots. Bourdeusian concepts are applied to varied contexts and issues, highlighting the eclectic use of his categories of analysis across a wide spectrum.

This book should interest those in sociology, anthropology, theory, structuralism, philosophy, and fiction, apart from the general reader.

French senators begin study tour for investments in India

NEW DELHI, Sept 8: Some 300 French companies are interested in investing in India and an 11-member team from the country's senate is on a week-long visit to India to identify the areas with good potential, officials said.

"Our focus will be on all the sectors such as service, manufacturing, banking, energy and infrastructure," said Jean-Paul Emorine, president of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Senate, who is leading the French delegation.

"The companies that we will mainly be focussing on are EADS, Eurocopter, Alstom, Areva, BNP Paribas, and Dassault Aviation," Emorine told a reception hosted for the delegation at the French embassy here Thursday evening.

"We are also strongly looking at India's food processing business and the information technology sector. I believe both the countries' strong diplomatic relations have facilitated this visit," Emorine stressed.

The French team arrived Thursday and will also visit Bangalore and Mumbai during their stay in India, said Marc Fonbaustier, minister counsellor at the embassy here.

The itinerary of the team in the capital includes visits to the Delhi Metro, the Noida Mall and a garments factory, as also interactions with some Indian members of parliament and the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM).

The delegation met the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia Thursday to discuss foreign investment requirements in the country's infrastructure.

"India's growth has not been homogenous. On the one hand the country's services sector and information technology is booming, while on the other, the growth in agriculture and industry has been very poor," Fonbaustier said.

"After this study tour, the senators will present a report to the French senate and talk to the French companies there who are planning some major investments in the country," he added.

In Bangalore, the delegation plans to visit the Grover vineyards and Infosys, and interact with officials of French companies based in the city like Valtech, AXA and Societe Generale.

The engagements in Mumbai include meetings with chief executives of companies in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, software and information technology.

India, France to step up strategic partnership

PARIS, Sept 5: India and France agreed on Tuesday to step up their strategic partnership to a new level through a slew of measures. The measures include joint production, co-production, transfer of technology, and ready availability of spares in defence production.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his meeting with French counterpart, Michele Alliot-Marie in Paris on Monday, stressed on the need to firm up transfers of technology for critical technological components such as Ring Laser Gyro.

Besides seeking commitment on export clearance to MBDA for cruise missiles, the minister, in regard to Air Force proposals, pointed out that certain important technologies were either not provided or withdrawn.

He said there was a greater degree of convergence of views on most matters and the details of cooperation will be worked out in an expeditious manner.

In his opening statement at the delegation level talks, Mukherjee felt that the full potential of Indo-French cooperation in the defence industries had not been fully exploited in the past due to certain apprehensions.

For example, its arms sales policies to China and Pakistan given the strategic partnership between India and France, and in French investment in the Indian defence industries for the European and the world market also, rather than the Indian market alone.

The two sides also exchanged views on global hotspots such as Afghanistan, Iran and Lebanon. He said that the global security situation had changed considerably since the last summit level meeting of the two countries in February this year.

Talking about Afghanistan, Mukherjee said although India is committed to the economic development and strengthening of democratic institutions in that country, in recent times, there have been certain 'disturbing' developments in the form of regrouping of the Taliban which is a matter of concern. "Taliban must not be allowed to grow," he said.

On Iran, the Defence Minister said, diplomacy should be given a chance to resolve the impasse. "This approach may sometimes appear to be a painfully slow process but what is important is that a peaceful resolution to the problem needs to be found", Mukherjee said.

Turning to Lebanon, the Defence Minister said that Indian troops are still continuing their peace keeping operations under the UNIFIL in the war ravaged country after the UN mandate on Chapter 6 was extended till February 2007.
"We believe that peace must be restored in Lebanon and tension must not be allowed to escalate. This needs restraint from both sides", he said.

Mukherjee said that global challenges, like international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy on the high seas, trafficking of arms and drugs and the increasing levels of violence resorted to by non-state actors, have to be met 'head-on' globally and jointly.

"This belief leads India to actively work with friendly countries in regional and global security responsibilities. There is need to consider possibility of widening the initiative to cover sharing of information received from other maritime agencies with an aim for greater coordination in the event of piracy incidents and drug trafficking," he said.

Mukherjee appreciated the French support to India 's candidature for a permanent membership at the UN Security Council.

Earlier on his arrival at Hotel de Brienne, the Headquarters of the French Ministry of Defence, Mukherjee was given an inter-services guard of honour.

In the morning, Mukherjee visited the French Air Defence and Air Operations Command (CDAOA) where he got a glimpse of strides made by European nations to confront the new threat posed by terrorists through the use of explosive laden aircraft, giving scant time to respond.

Though a French Defence Ministry project, the CDAOA is in fact a joint European mission conceived recently after 9/11 terrorist attack o the twin towers of World Trade Centre in New York.

"This is much more a European project than a national one," the French officials said. At the CDAOA, aviation wizards are networking satellite, overhead surveillance systems, aerostat balloon radars and all ground based radars and sensors to keep a Europe-wide eye for such threats. Mukherjee who spent nearly two hours at the site said such projects and research were of immense interest to India as New Delhi also faced such threats.

The officials said the response time given to react to such threats in Europe is just seven minutes to which Mukherjee responded saying it could be less for his country. Later French officials said that the objective of the visit of the Indian Minister was to take friendly countries into confidence for evolving a system of sharing information of such threats in real time.

The officials said that the French had moulded its just inducted Rafale multi-role combat aircraft along with Mirage-2000-5 as Quick Reaction Aerial Response teams to deal with such threats.

Visit to France aimed at strengthening relationship: Pranab

NEW DELHI, Sept 4: Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that his three-day visit to Paris will "deepen India 's relationship with France".

Speaking to newsperson in Paris shortly after his arrival yesterday, Mukherjee described France as a 'strategic partner' and said "all along Paris has taken an independent position" on the supply of armaments and weapons platform to India . He said our relationship with Paris is robust as far as defence cooperation is concerned.

Talking about cooperation with France in the civilian nuclear energy sector, Mukherjee said ' France has assured us of help in the development of nuclear energy for civilian use and we want to take this forward'.

Referring to the Indo-US agreement on civilian nuclear energy which is currently pending with the US Congress, Mukherjee said "if the United States removes the embargo and lifts the ban on India, other follow up action can take place." He said that the process has begun with the US and we await its final clearance.

Asked about request for proposals on 126 Multi-role Combat aircraft, the Minister said it would be floated shortly and India 's response will be guided by the recently announced Defence Procurement Procedure for capital acquisition.

He said India's relations with Iran are not dependent on Tehran's relations with other countries.

The Defence Minister will begin formal part of his visit on Monday by holding one-to-one discussion with the French Defence Minister followed by delegation level talks.

The Minister, who will go to Germany on the second leg of his tour tomorrow, said India wanted to forge similar strategic tie-ups with Germany. The first ever Indo-German defence cooperation agreement to be signed during his stay in Berlin, is aimed at getting out of the buyer-seller relationship and upgrade it to deeper cooperation through co-production, joint production of weapons system and technology transfer.

The Minister's delegation comprises Chief of Integrated Defence Staff, Lt Gen H.S. Lidder, Air Officer Commanding in Chief, Eastern Air Command, Air Marshal F.H. Major, Director General of Acquisition in MoD, S. Banerjee and Joint Secretary, Gautam Chatterjee.

Pranab pays homage at the Indian Soldiers Memorial at Neuve Chapelle

PARIS, Sept 3: With an overcast sky and occasional showers adding to the gloom, India's Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee paid homage at the Indian Soldiers Memorial at Neuve Chapelle at a solemn ceremony today.

The memorial at Neuve Chapelle was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and unveiled on October 7, 1927 by the Earl of Birkenhead, Secretary of Stat for India. The Memorial was erected by the Imperial War Graves Commission and is now maintained by the Common Wealth War raves Commission.

The Memorial Takes the form of a circular enclosure, in the foreground of which is a column nearly 15 metres high, recalling the pillars of Ashoka, surmounted by a Lotus capital, the Star of India and the Imperial crown.

On either side of the column two carved tigers guard this temple of dead. The column and the tigers are supported by a 'podium', on the near side of which is carved "INDIA 1914-1918" while on the far side are the battle honours of Indian Units on the Western Front.

From the ends of the podium, a pierced stone railing extend half way round the circle, and the ends of the semi-circle are marked by two small domed 'chattris', roghly East and West. The far semi-circle is enclosed by a solid wall on which are carved the names of over 4,700 soldiers of the Indian Army.

In 1964, a Special Bronze Panel with the names of 210 servicemen of undivided India who died in captivity during the 1914-1918 war and is buried at Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery, Germany was added to the Memorial.

Also this site commemorates 8 Indian soldiers (6 identified and 2 unidentified) of 1939-1945 whose remains were exhumed in 1964 from Sarrebourg French Military Cemetery Extension and cremated.

India's participation in Western Front

Around 90, 000 officers and men of the Indian Army, from all parts of the sub-continent served in the two cavalry divisions that fought on the Western Front. A further 50,000 worked in the Labour companies at bases behind the front line. The first two brigades of the Lahore Division disembarked at Marseilles on 26 September 1914. One of them, the Ferozepore Brigade, played an important part in the heavy fighting on the Marseilles Ridge in Belgium .

Here, on 31 October, a Sepoy of the 129th Baluchis was the first Indian soldier of the 1914-1918 War to be awarded the Victoria Cross. By the end of the month, almost the full strength of the Indian Expeditionary Force in France had arrived in the line. Through the remainder of 1914 and into the early 1915, Indian Troops endured heroically the mud and bitter cold of the trenches in most sectors of the British frontline.

It was at Neuve Chapelle, from 10-13 arch 1915, that the Indian Corps fought its first great action as a simple formation and lost one fifth of its strength. At Port Arthur, a cross roads on the battle field where so many fell in the welter of carnage, the site was later chosen for the memorial to all those men of India who fell on the Western Front and who have no known grave or whose remains were cremated.

After the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, Indian troops further distinguished themselves at St Julien in the Ypres Salient (Belgium) in April 1915, at Aubers Ridge and Festubert in May, and at Loos in September, before the greater part embarked at Marseilles for service in other theatres. The Indian Cavalry Corps remained in France until the Spring of 1918, and from 1917 until after the Armistice 54 labour companies performed vital logistical work at the bases behind the front line.

French National Day Celebrations

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July14: The French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, is a perfect host and his social get-togethers are always talk of the town. The party to mark the French national day was the grandest of all.

The Urban Development Minister, Mr Jaipal Reddy, the Minister of State for Railways, Mr R Velu, the Manipur Governor, S S Sidhu, the former Governor, Mr Bhishma Narain Singh, and several Ambassadors and diplomats were present for the celebrations.

The Vice-President, Ms Corinne Giacometti, and Mr Dominique Klepandy, both of La Region Languedoc Roussillon (South of France) were also there to promote wine, cheese and other gastronomical delights and tourism of their region.

Just before the formal celebrations, the French Ambassador honoured four Indians with national awards at a special investiture ceremony. These were Father of the green revolution M S Swaminathan, renowned environmentalist R K Pachauri, social worker Ela Bhatt and champion of human rights Father Cedric Prakash. The four were seen being congratulated profusely by the invitees during the national day party.

Soon after the delightful firework later in the evening, DJ Iggy (Ignatius Camila), with foot tapping music, kept the celebrations rolling.

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille which took place on July 14, 1789 and heralded the beginning of the French revolution. The Bastille - a prison - symbolized the absolute power of King Louis XVI and thus its fall marked a victory for liberty and the will of the people. Today Bastille Day celebrations combine the formality of military parades and the conviviality of street dances and fireworks in France.

France honours four Indians

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, July 14: The French Government has bestowed its high civilian awards on four prominent Indians including M S Swaminathan, R K Pachauri, Ela Bhatt and Father Cedric Prakash.

The French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, bestowed the awards to Mr M S Swaminathan, Mr R K Pachauri, Mrs Ela Bhatt and Father Cedric Prakash at a special investiture ceremony here on Friday.

"India can learn a lot from France in the way they protect the interests of their farmers," said the father of the Green Revolution M. S. Swaminathan after accepting the French `Commander of Agriculture Merit' award. The award was given in recognition of his outstanding service in the field of agriculture and development of rural India as part of the National Day Celebrations of France.

Director-General of Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) Pachauri was awarded the `Officer of the Legion' for his contribution in the field of environment and sustainable development. In his acceptance speech, he lauded French achievements in the area of energy and environment.

Founder of Self-Employed Women's Association Bhatt was awarded the `Officer of the Legion' in recognition of her unparalleled work for underprivileged women. She was accompanied by 30 self-reliant women from Gujarat, all members of SEWA.

Bhatt said "Liberty, equality, fraternity and the right to self-determination are part of the political vocabulary of most nations today, no matter what their political system ...Yet, the distance between the haves and the have-nots is increasing. Under such circumstances, is it possible to have political freedom without economic freedom? To what extent can an economically weak person exercise her political rights?"

The `Knight of the Legion Honour' was bestowed on Father Cedric Prakash, Director of `Prashant,' the Centre for Promotion of Human Rights, Justice and Peace, in recognition of his selfless social work and his actions in favour of human rights. He dedicated his award to former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the Godhra riots in Gujarat.

World Cup Soccer Final at French embassy

NEW DELHI, July 10: The FIFA World Cup final between France and Italy was telecast live on several giant screens at the French embassy here. The event was attended by a large number of friends of France and the French community in Delhi.

The French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, and his wife were gracious hosts as always.

The enchanting France

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 7: Football fever has once again brought focus on France - the country famous for romance, wine, cheese, perfumes, fashion, art and theatre. To commemorate the 14th July Bastile Day, Discovery Travel & Living, is launching beginning Monday five special one-hour programme to capture the enthralling country in "Vive La France!"

The programme, whose preview was held at the French embassy amidst a gala evening, offers an invigorating and irresistible journey through its exquisite sights, sound and scenery.
Besides the magnificent Arc de Triomphe and the fashionable Champs Elysees, the programme, spread over six days, will reveal entertaining facts about the country, capturing in detail its vibrant culture and lifestyle.

Speaking on the launch, the French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, said "the World Cup final has one more time eloquently evidenced that France never is exactly the way it is described, be the description favourable or critical." He hoped "the programme will give you new reasons to spend more and more time with France's culture, lifestyle and old artistic marvels and new technology prowess and above all its people, whom you will love even more or will even more love to hate."

Mr Deepak Shourie, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Discovery Networks India, said "Vive La France captures the magnificent, vibrant and enchanting France."

Viewers will get a lively and exciting view of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, its hidden wine cellars and the backstage view of the world famous Moulin Rouge where the dancers will reveal their performance secrets and the challenging routine of changing 20 costumes in sequence.


A sporty evening at French embassy

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, June 11: The French Open always calls for a fun-filled sporty party at the French embassy. The Sunday's men's final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was no different.

The live screening of the finale, partnered by Lacoste, saw prominent guests from various embassies, Delhi glitterati and sports lovers cheering for their favourite star.

The French Ambassador, Mr Dominique Girard, who hosted the party, kept the sporty mood of the party by wearing striped Lacoste Polo from its latest Soho collection. Yannick Poupon, Area Director, New Delhi and General Manager, The Taj Mahal Hotel, and Anjela donned comfortable Lacoste T-shirts. Yannick said: "We are French so our loyalty towards the French players and Lacoste is obvious."

President & CEO Lacoste India Vikas Gupta said: "I am very excited that Lacoste is part of this evening. The brand is associated with tennis since 1927. The new collection is a bright and colourful one in exciting striped and solid patterns."

French artist Fabrice Hyber, Unitech Head retail Munish K Baldev, Ambassadors Jutta Stefan-Bastt, Don Rafael Conderso, Jorgue Heine, Aruna Vasudev, singer Shibani Kashyap and actor Nasser Abdullah were seen enjoying the match while sipping French wine. The evening ended with overjoyed guests applauding the winner Rafael Nadal as he carried the cup.



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