France is looking at Indian cities smaller than the metros, such as New Delhi and Chennai, for co-operation in the field of infrastructure development and education. This focus will be in addition to the periodical cultural exchanges it is already working on, Consul General of France Pierre Fournier told presspersons here on Wednesday.

After a meeting with Mayor R. Venkatachalam and other elected representatives at the Coimbatore Corporation, Mr. Fournier said some French companies had already set up shop in the country and were working in the field of infrastructure creation in India.

To a specific question on whether his country would provide technical expertise on advanced transportation systems, he said: “We can look at that. Everyone knows that we have the fastest train in the world – the TGV.” France’s major industries were in the fields of energy, aircraft, high-speed trains and bio-technology.

Significantly, Mr. Fournier said there would be adequate focus on smaller cities such as Coimbatore. “Till now, the natural process was to look at New Delhi and then Chennai. Now, we want to know of the expectations of other cities such as Coimbatore,” he said.

The French official said this was his first visit to a city other than Chennai after taking charge at the High Commission in Puducherry two months ago. There could be more visits to familiarise with the city’s requirements and also to work on various areas of co-operation. “The visit is based on the concept of co-development,” he said.

France stressed a three-fold increase in trade ties with India and in the last two to three years, the number of Indian students pursuing higher education in France had increased by four times.

Mr. Venkatachalam said more investment by French firms would improve Coimbatore’s economy and provide job opportunities.

During the meeting with Mr. Fournier, the Mayor told him that Coimbatore was at the threshold of massive infrastructure development under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Mr. Fournier visited some educational institutions, as part of his country’s initiative to showcase in other country’s the higher education avenues in France, chiefly engineering education, and the employment opportunities these provided.

“I am impressed with the quality of the engineering institutions, the quality of the education and the students in Coimbatore. We spoke to the students on the courses and scholarships available in France.” Mr. Fournier sought the support of the Corporation in promoting cultural exchange programmes. When he said France was one of the leading nations in the promotion of renewable energy, the Mayor said the Corporation too was embarking on a project for total use of solar energy in its office use and municipal services.

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