Unlike other foreign leaders feted by Indian in recent years, French President Emmanuel Macron left a message directly to Indian people before stepping on to the plane back home.
In a video message posted on Twitter, Macron sounded less like a politician and more like a ordinary person as he thanked everyone for making possible a visit that, in his words, helped him “discover India”.
“I want to tell you how emotional it was for me during these three days to spend hours with your young people in Delhi..We spent, with my wife, three marvelous days..”
France has been one of India’s few all-weather friends since independenc and has been the second biggest supplier of military technology to India, after Russia.
The country has been generous in supplying weapons and technology to India even when others like the USA kept a distance.
Of late, India and France are also engaged in pushing renewable energy and other programs to protect the environment and delay catastrophic climate change.
Macron said he, along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, worked very hard during these three days.
“We decided on a strategic partnership: New decisions from a security, economic, energy and environment point of view,” he said. “We launched the international solar alliance, which is a great achievement at this stage, but only the beginning of great achievement.”
Macron also repeated his offer to Indian students and businessmen to come and study in his country.
“Choose France,” he urged. “Young people, young students, entrepreneurs, academics, researchers, Indian leaders.. choose France. You’re very much welcome!”
Students from India and China are among the biggest ‘customers’ for educational institutions across the world, particularly in countries like the UK, Australia and the US. Many Indians are also behind successful start-ups in the US.
However, young Indians have typically shown a bias towards English-speaking nations due to their comfort with the medium of instruction.
Besides, 90% of the students who go outside India for studies also want to work outside.
With the exit of the UK from the European Union, India’s former colonial master has lost some of its allure to Indian students, a point that didn’t seem to be lost on Macron.
“And I’ll be very proud to make my country the entry point for Europe and make my country the long-term strategic partner for you,” he said, addressing Indian students and entrepreneurs.
However, the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responded to Macron’s appeal by emphasizing the fact that education in the country was offered in the English language (See below).
We are proud too to have more than 14,000 Indian students coming to the UK in 2017 – up a quarter over last year – choosing the home of the greatest universities, including four of the global top ten. #educationisgreatinEnglish
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 11, 2018