( dpa )- French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday began a two-day visit to India aimed at giving a new momentum to bilateral ties with talks on nuclear cooperation and a multi-billion dollar defence agreement, officials said.
Both countries will also discuss measures to boost trade and business ties during Sarkozy's first visit to India, that is marked with suspense over whether the leader's girlfriend, pop-singer Carla Bruni would join him.
Sarkozy , who arrived in the Indian capital early Friday morning will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at noon on a wide range of issues covering bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Following the talks, both sides would issue a joint statement which enunciates the "strategic roadmap" for future bilateral cooperation, India's foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.
The two countries have also finalized a framework agreement for civil nuclear cooperation which Paris is keen to sign after India reaches a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and gets exemptions from the Nuclear Suppliers Group for its nuclear deal with the US.
The two sides are also expected to announce a 1.5 billion euro (2.2 billion dollars) agreement under which France will upgrade 52 Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force, Indian newspapers reported.
France, which was awarded 3-billion-dollar contract to construct six Scorpene submarines for India in 2006, is the third biggest arms supplier to the South Asian country after Russia and Israel.
The Singh- Sarkozy talks will also focus on enhancing commerce ties to set ambitious trade targets as bilateral trade has more than doubled in the past three years and stands at 6.23 billion dollars.
"The French president's visit is expected to provide fresh impetus to bilateral relations. Several agreements in the fields of defence , railways, science and technology including neurosciences and education are likely to be signed during the visit," spokesman Sarna said.
The issue of the Eurocopter deal between India and European defence consortium EADS, which was scrapped by New Delhi about two months ago, may also come up for discussions between the leaders.
France said it "regretted" the cancellation of the Eurocopter tender in which 197 helicopters were to be supplied for a cost of 600 million dollars.
Singh and Sarkozy will also discuss regional issues, particularly Pakistan, Iran and Middle East. Reform of international institutions like the UN will also figure in the discussions, as France has supported India's desire to play a prominent role in the world body.
The controversy surrounding a ban by France on wearing turbans by Sikhs in public schools is also expected to come up during the talks. Some Sikh groups have met the Indian foreign officials recently in this regard and are planning protests on Friday.
Later on Friday, Sarkozy is scheduled to meet Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari and Sonia Gandhi, chairwoman of the ruling United Progressive Alliance. He would address a joint India-France business conference and attend a banquet hosted by his Indian counterpart Pratibha Patil in the evening.
The French president will be chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on Saturday after which he is due to make a brief visit to the Taj Mahal city of Agra which has fuelled speculation in the Indian press that his girlfriend Carla Bruni might join him there.
Sarkozy is slated to attend a reception by Patil in Delhi later on Saturday after which he will meet the French community in Delhi. He will fly back to Paris on Saturday night.