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Indian PM Narendra Modi begins maiden trip to Europe

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has arrived in France for his first visit to Europe. High on the agenda is a potential multi-billion euro deal for French fighter jets.

Narendra Modi (pictured, center) was ceremonially welcomed to Paris on Friday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (pictured, left).

"It is no coincidence that France is the first country that I am visiting as part of my first official trip to Europe," Modi told French newspaper Le Figaro, according to news agency AFP, emphasizing Indian-French cooperation in several sectors including space, nuclear energy and defense.

Speculation ahead of the visit centered on whether Modi and French President Francois Hollande could make a breakthrough in years-long negotiations for India's purchase of 126 French Rafale fighter jets, made by Dassault Aviation and worth billions of euros. The talks have stalled over pricing and local assembly.

As well seeking to attract investment to his fast-growing economy and boost a "Make in India" campaign, Modi is set to sign several agreements and make a two-day tour through much of France, including visiting the Airbus manufacturers in Toulouse.

It has taken Modi almost a year to visit Europe, after he was elected last May. After France, Modi is due to head to Germany before heading to Canada.

se/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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