First official visit of Ms. Sonia Barbry, Consul General of France in Bombay, to Gujarat
From 28th to 31st August, Sonia Barbry, Consul general of France in Bombay, made her first official visit in the state of the Gujarat.
Gujarat is one of the most industrialized states of India and also one of the most attractive for investments. The rapid growth of sectors such as high-value agricultural produce and dairy as well as the continued focus on renewable energy attracts a diverse mix of French companies who are prepared to invest and make in India. Economic co-operation with Gujarat is one of the priorities of Franco-Gujarati relations. Already, several dozens of them are based there and investing in the State. It is precisely in this context that Ms. Barbry gave the keynote speech at the inauguration of the French company Roquette’s new production house in Viramgam.
On the other hand, cultural ties with the State are going from strength to strength. The Alliance française d’Ahmedabad is a vibrant example of Indo-French cultural exchange where more than 4000 students are learning French. This organization regularly promotes and supports Indian and French artists to foster cultural awakening. Mme Barbry spoke to the staff of Alliance française to thank them for their constant efforts in building and maintaining Indo-French ties. It is interesting to note that France has ancient ties with Ahmedabad: between 1997 and 2002 France has sent architectural experts and has financed the restoration of 70 Havelis from the old city of Ahmedabad and has been a long-time partner of the city in the fields of culture and architecture. This is one of the reasons she was keen on meeting Mr Balkrishna Doshi, disciple of famous French architect Le Corbusier.
University co-operation continues to remain one of the main focus points. Mme Barbry visited IIT Gandhinagar to meet with the director Mr. Sudhir Jain, accompanied by the Campus France representative in Gujarat. Discussion was held around the objective of increasing student mobility towards France following the new target set by Prime Minister Modi and President Emmanuel Macron to have 25000 Indian students in France by 2025. French universities are always keen to tie-up with prestigious institutes like IIT Gandhinagar, among others, for knowledge-sharing, student exchange, mutual recognition of degrees, etc. Mme Barbry also discussed the new visa rules specially designed to facilitate the Indian students to go to France for higher education.
Apart for private companies from different domains, macro developmental agencies like The French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement, AFD) are keen to finance more infrastructure projects in the State, especially in clean urban mobility. Mme Barbry, during her official meetings with Hon’ble Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra, reiterated France’s commitment towards supporting India in building green infrastructure and various possibilities to increase France’s co-operations in Gujarat.
On a more personal note, Ms. Barbry was fascinated by the visit of the Institute of Indology, which reminded her of her years studying Indian culture and history at her university. She also enjoyed the interaction with the small but enthusiastic French community living in Ahmedabad.