Consul General of France in Mumbai Sonia Barbry, who fell in love with India and its culture when she came here to study as a teenager, now wants more and more Indian students to study in her country. Besides focusing on the business relations, their target is to increase the number of students going from hereto study in France to 20,000 by 2025, she says.
"Both the countries have strong strategic partnership and now our focus is also on increasing the economic and people-to-people ties. We want more and more students from India to come to France and study," Sonia Barbry told PTI.
"Till five years back, we had 3,000 Indian students, this year 10,000 students of Indian origin are studying in France, and our target it to increase the figure to 20,000 by 2025," she said.
She said she is a strong believer in the students' exchange programmes, now that she is herself working for the development of relations between two countries. But, it all started when she was 18 years' old and came to India as part of a student exchange programme.
"I came here when I was 18 and fell in love with India. I wanted to know more and then I made it a part of my profession. So we want students to get exposed to new culture," she said.
Sonia Barbry recalled that when she was a student, she had to take a compulsory internship for which she chose India and spent around six months here. She then told her parents that six months were not enough and she needed to go back to India.
"At the age of 19, I came back to India and went to Varanasi. I spent two-and-a-half years there. I learnt Bharatnatyam (Indian classical dance), Dhrupad (a genre of Hindustani classical music), Hindi and yoga," she revealed. She also taught French at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and at the same time learnt about the Indian culture and traditions, and read scriptures.
"I was especially interested in Kashmiri Shaivism," she said. Kashmiri Shaivism is a Hindu philosophical branch just like the Advaita Vedenta, both propagating non-dualism. Later, she went back to Paris, completed her studies and joined the foreign service.
"And now I am the consul general in Mumbai. I have an over 22-year-long association with India," she said. During her service, she has largely attended to matters related to South Asia, she informed. France is an open country, Sonia Barbry said, adding they want people-to-people ties to increase in all possible areas.
"We are also focusing on increasing the business ties, which are already very strong but we can do more," she said.
During her trip here, she met Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and both of them discussed how to take the cooperation forward. "We have the presence of 50 companies in Gujarat. We want to increase the investment here and more and more companies will come," she said, adding that a French delegation also participated as business partners in the'Vibrant Gujarat' investors summit here earlier this year.
France is quite advance in transportation, especially trains, she said, adding their government agency AFD (Agence Francaise De Development) will soon send a proposal to the state government to extend help in setting up the Surat Metro.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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