India and France are expected to sign an agreement for a high-speed railway link between Delhi and Chandigarh on Sunday, reports Huma Siddiqui in New Delhi.
According to a source, “Paris has offered its help to India for upgrading its railway infrastructure, especially with its expertise in high-speed and semi-high-speed rail projects trains, for upgrading the Delhi-Chandigarh line to a 200-kmph one and for redevelopment of the Ambala and Ludhiana railway stations.”
France’s offer comes close on the heels of Japan agreeing to fund the proposed Rs 1-lakh-crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project by up to 81%.
Regarding the Delhi-Chandigarh project, a feasibility study has already been completed by Indian Railways and the French National Railways or SNCF. The exact cost and funding pattern are yet to be estimated. French President Francois Hollande, who arrives on a three-day visit on Sunday, will land in Chandigarh.
He will later travel to New Delhi for meetings with officials and as guest of honour on Tuesday at India’s Republic Day parade.
Chandigarh, designed in the 1950s by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, is one of three cities that France has pledged to help develop as “smart cities” — with clean water supply, efficient sewage disposal and public transportation, among other programmes. The other two cities adopted by France are Nagpur and the former French colony of Puducherry.
The French leader will be accompanied by a high-profile delegation including the ministers of defence, foreign affairs, economy and culture and dozens of top corporate leaders including CEOs of several defence companies, public transport, solar energy and others. The two countries are working to expand partnership in areas of smart cities, solar energy, counter-terrorism, rail infrastructure and space.
In Chandigarh, the visiting leader Hollande and French business leaders will meet with Indian counterparts in an effort to expand its bilateral trade, which in 2014 stood at $8.6 billion. New Delhi is also trying to encourage French companies to tap into India’s economic boom.
On Monday, Hollande will hold talks in New Delhi with Modi and other Indian officials and the two leaders are expected to touch on anti-terrorism efforts including speeding up extradition requests and cracking down on money-laundering used to fund militant activities.