Chandigarh: French President Francois Hollande will today commence his three-day India visit from the ‘City Beautiful’ where he, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will attend a business summit and visit various landmarks.
A thick security blanket has been thrown by security agencies in the city where the two premiers will be at the India-France Business Summit, which will be attended by corporate honchos of the two nations.
Accompanied by a high-level delegation, Hollande will land around 1 pm in Chandigarh, which was designed bySwiss-French architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, also known as Le Corbusier between 1950s and 1960s.
He will be accompanied by Modi during the sightseeing to most frequented tourist spots — Rock Garden, Capitol Complex, and Government Museum and Art gallery. They will spend close to 15 minutes at each of the three sites before reaching a private hotel for the business meet, officials said.
Later in evening, the leaders will fly separately to Delhi, where Hollande will attend the Republic Day parade as the Chief Guest and hold talks with Modi, during which ways to strengthen counter-terror cooperation in the aftermath of Paris and Pathankot terror strikes will figure prominently.
Hollande will be the fifth French leader to be a Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations — the maximum number from any country so far. Earlier, leaders from that country had graced the occasion in 1976, 1980, 1998 and 2008.
Significantly, for the first time, French soldiers will march down the Rajpath on Republic Day along with Indian troops, a first for any foreign army.
In Chandigarh, a heavy posse of security personnel from Punjab, Haryana, the Union Territory of Chandigarh and para-military ITBP jawans have been deployed in strength at all vital installations, the officials said.
However, the UT of Chandigarh Administration has decided not to put any restriction on the movement of people during the high-profile visit today.
“There will be no restriction on the movement of people in Chandigarh. Moreover, no road will be closed for long duration during the high-profile visit. No tourist spot will also be closed for visitors,” said a senior official in UT Chandigarh Administration.
This move came in the wake of severe criticism faced by the administration last year during Modi’s visit to the city.
At that time, the administration faced the wrath for shutting down city schools and even crematoriums, prompting Modi to expressed regret for the inconvenience and say that it was “totally avoidable”.
During the visit, France is likely to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Chandigarh for helping it develop as a smart city, official sources said.
Last year, France had committed to help three Indian cities Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry to be developed as smart cities. Chandigarh is competing for making into the list of first 20 cities to be picked by the Ministry of Urban Development for funding in year 2016-17 under the Smart City project.