NATIONAL

Chirac's adviser to hold talks in Delhi

PARIS JAN. 4. The French President, Jacques Chirac's special diplomatic adviser, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, left for New Delhi today for another meeting of the ongoing Indo-French strategic dialogue.

These Indo-French talks come at a critical juncture in world affairs. At a time when Pakistan has acceded to the U.N. Security Council, France has assumed the council's rotating presidency. France is also the current chairman of the G8 group of industrialised nations. It is one of the European Union's two locomotives and enjoys unprecedented prestige among the nations of the world for the bold stand it took on Iraq during discussions among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that led to the adoption of the UNSC Resolution 1441. India and France have shared perceptions on several issues, including the respect of multilateral institutions and the need for a multi-polar world. France has supported India's bid for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council and refrained from criticising India's nuclear programme. The two countries have a growing strategic relationship in matters of defence and the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Gourdault-Montagne, who was recalled from his post as French Ambassador to Japan to be appointed President Chirac's "sherpa" or senior-most diplomatic adviser at the Elysee Palace, will hold talks with his Indian opposite number, the National Security Adviser and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra. An old India hand — he served in the early eighties as the First Secretary at the French Embassy in New Delhi — Mr. Gourdault-Montagne has held several top posts, working in close proximity with President Chirac and with Alain Juppe during his tenure as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. He replaces Gerrard Errera as the President's special appointee to lead the French side in strategic talks with India. Mr. Gourdault-Montagne and his Indian opposite number met in Paris recently when Mr. Mishra made a quick stopover for a "getting acquainted" luncheon meeting on his return from the U.S. The last meeting in this series of talks was held in February 2002. Talks scheduled for August last year were conducted during the visit to India by the French Foreign Minister in early July.

Several Indo-French events are in the pipeline, beginning with a visit here by the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, later this month to sign an extradition treaty between the two countries. Next month, the French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, is to visit India accompanied by five important Ministers and a top-level delegation of businessmen.

Recommended for you