France seems to be taking great interest in India’s Smart Cities project. In November last year, France committed 2 billion euro to the project, with a special focus on Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry. French Ambassador Francois Richier had committed this amount last year.
This amount and the cities were confirmed by French President Francois Hollande, who is now on the economic leg of his three-day visit to India.
In fact, when PM Narendra Modi had visited France in April last year, France had spoken about only a 600 million euro commitment to the ‘Smart Cities’ project that India is rolling out. The subsequent commitments have been much larger, even as India’s Smart Cities project picks up steam.
A total of 37 consultants have been shortlisted for preparing action plans for the 98 cities which the Narendra Modi government plans to develop as Smart Cities.
The latest announcement by the French President came after two back-to-back meetings which were held with the Indian PM; the first meeting was held along with the Indo-French CEOs Forum.
The MoU with French government entity Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) was signed on January 24th with the Chandigarh administration, the Puducherry government, and the Maharashtra government.
AFD is a public financial institution that implements policies formulated by the French government. In the initial phase as per the MoU, AFD will provide technical assistance to the three cities identified by the French and Indian governments. The agreed financial assistance will be provided at a later stage.
The current French interest in India’s Smart Cities project must be seen from a wider perspective. Bilateral trade with the EU has touched $100 billion. In November last year, according to news reports, Tomasz Kozlowski, Ambassador of the EU to India said that the European Union was “very much interested” in making agreements with India for the country’s Smart Cities project. The ambassador told a gathering that the EU it would “willingly help India in getting loans” for the same.