Sarkozy to end India trip with tribute to Mumbai victims

Sarkozy to end India trip with tribute to Mumbai victims

Mumbai: French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrapped up a trade-focused trip to India by visiting Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, Tuesday to honour the 166 victims of terrorist attacks on the city.

Sarkozy will place a wreath at a memorial in the south of the city for the 18 police officers who lost their lives in the carnage just over two-year ago.

The French president will later visit two of the three hotels that were besieged during the 60-hour assault that also saw attacks on a popular tourist restaurant, a Jewish centre and Mumbai’s main railway station.

At the Oberoi hotel, which was reduced to a shell by bombs, bullets and fire and only reopened in April this year, he will attend a short ceremony with victims’ families, local dignitaries and members of city’s French community.

The executive vice-president of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts group, Devendra Bharma, and the general manager of the nearby Taj Mahal Palace, Karambir Singh Kang, will be awarded French civilian honours.

Kang was hailed a hero for staying at his post during the siege to help guide more than 1,000 guests to safety, despite losing his wife and two children when four heavily-armed gunmen stormed the landmark seafront hotel.

Sarkozy is then due to address business leaders at an Indo-French industry forum at the Taj hotel before heading back to France.

His visit comes after similar trips by British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama and has the same aim to score lucrative trade deals and export opportunities with one of the world’s fast-growing economies.

Sarkozy and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday unveiled plans for a $9.3 billion deal for France’s Areva nuclear group to provide two reactors for a new plant in Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

The deal is short of a final sale contract but makes Areva a front-runner in the increasingly competitive race to sell nuclear technology to India, which wants atomic energy to supply a quarter of its electricity demands by 2050.

The United States and Japan are also looking to increase civil nuclear cooperation, while Russia is already building two nuclear power plants in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Sarkzoy’s office has said that deals totalling €15 billion ($20 billion) have been or are about to be signed with Indian companies.

They include a leasing agreement for 14 Airbus planes and the modernisation of 51 French-made Mirage fighter jets.

Like Cameron and Obama before him, Sarkozy has brought with him senior ministers and captains of industry, including heads of aviation, defence and space technology firms.

He has pledged his backing for New Delhi’s goal of securing a coveted permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and talked up India’s increasing clout on the world stage plus its democratic credentials.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are both due in India before the year end.