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France India Emmanuel Macron Narendra Modi Rafale Climate change

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Macron to visit India this month, cochair International Solar Alliance launch

Emmanuel Macron greets Narendra Modi at the Elysée Palace last year REUTERS/Charles Platiau

French President Emmanuel Macron is to pay a state visit to India on 9-12 March, where he will try to deepen trade and diplomatic links and cochair the launch of the International Solar Alliance, a commitment of previous climate change meetings in Paris.

Macron, who will be accompanied by his wife Brigitte, will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on 10 March.

The French president visited the other Asian giant, China, in January and Modi was one of the first foreign leaders to visit Paris after Macron's election last year.

The pair will cochair the first-ever meeting of the International Solar Alliance, whose formation Modi first announced at the Cop21 climate change conference in Paris in 2015 and was raised again at the One Planet Summit in the French capital last December.

Macron and his wife will visit Varanasi, the city of 2,000 Hindu temples, on the last day of the trip, according to sources.

The Indian government said the visit will help the two countries to strengthen cooperation on defence, terrorism, security, space and energy.

Bilateral trade was worth nine billion euros between April 2016 and March 2017.

France is the ninth largest investor in India, with about 1,000 French companies working there, while 120 Indian companies employ 7,000 people in France.

Long-drawn-out negotiations resulted in India buying 36 Rafale jets in 2016 and their manufacturer, Dassault, hopes to sell the country's air force a further 36.

Macron's predecessor, François Hollande, visited India in January 2016.