French President Francois Hollande today affirmed that the Rs 60,000 crore Rafale fighter jets deal with India was "on the right track" and that it would pave...
French President Francois Hollande today affirmed that the Rs 60,000 crore Rafale fighter jets deal with India was “on the right track” and that it would pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological bilateral cooperation for the next 40 years.
There has been speculation whether the final deal for India to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets would be inked during Hollande’s State Visit, which commenced with his arrival in Chandigarh today.
The deal was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to France last April.
Asked if he hoped to see the final deal inked during his current visit, Hollande told PTI in a interview that “we are on the right track” but agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time.
He also noted that Indo-French cooperation in defence “is part of our strategic partnership. It is based on trust, a very strong trust between both our countries.”
Answering a question on the Pathankot terror strike and that most of the terror attacks in India emanate from Pakistan, Hollande said, “France strongly condemned the attack on Pathankot. India is fully justified to ask for justice against perpetrators.”
“India and France are confronted with similar threats: we are attacked by murderers who pretend to act on religious basis. Their real objective is widespread hate. They want to undermine our democratic values and our way of life. India and France are united in their determination to act together against terrorism.”
Following is the transcript of the interview with President Hollande:
Q: Mr President, you will be the record fifth French Head of State to be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day parade later this month. That reflects growing strategic ties between India and France.
Ans: I am on a State Visit to India for the second time and I am very proud to be the Chief Guest of the Republic Day. The Indo-French relationship is based on shared values: freedom, democracy, progress. A French contingent will march along Indian forces on Rajpath. This is historic. The 35th Infantry was created in 1604. These last weeks, it took part in a counter-terrorism exercise with the Indian Army in Rajasthan. I would like to add that it also fought in India against the troops of the East India Company in the 1780s along with the troops of the ruler of Mysore. I received Prime Minister Modi in Paris, less than a year ago. We have established a relationship of trust. And further raised the level of our partnership.
Q: Do you think that these ties have reached their full potential or is there room for doing more? If yes, what are the areas in which you would like greater cooperation between the two countries?
Ans: I also come to India to strengthen our relationship in several areas: defense, space and civil nuclear energy. As well as education, research, culture. Our cooperation on the fight against climate change and on clean energies has taken on an unprecedented importance. And India has contributed to the success of the Paris climate conference.
There we launched the Solar Alliance and committed to concrete programs â€“ in renewable energies, energy storage, urban development. My visit will enable us to conclude a series of new agreements and take a step towards the implementation of the agreements we signed last April in Paris. I am thinking of railways, smart cities, food security, higher education. As well as cinema. The variety of subjects reflects the density of what France and India can do together.
Q: France is a major defence supplier to India and the Rafale fighter jet deal announced during Prime Minister Modi’s visit last year is a reflection of that. Do you hope to see the final deal inked during your stay in India?
Ans: Our cooperation on defense is part of our strategic partnership. It is based on trust, a very strong trust between both our countries.
The Rafale is a major project for India and France. It will pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation, including ‘Make in India’, for the next 40 years. Agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time, but we are on the right track.
Q: India has further opened up its markets to foreign investment and has improved the ease of doing business in this country. What do you hear from the French industry about these Indian reforms? Do French investors want India to take more steps for them to be comfortable in investing in India?
Ans: I am accompanied by a large business delegation. French companies invest a lot in India. The stock is now over 20 billion euros. French companies offer 300,000 qualified jobs and invest in professional training. Almost 1,000 French companies are present in India and they are successful.
Let me give you a few examples: Cap Gemini IT will reach 100,000 jobs in India, a thousand times more than the 100 people employed 15 years ago. Safran Morphodeveloped, for India, the biometric technology that made it possible to register one billion Indians for the ID program Aadhaar. Alstom Transport recently signed a contract for the production of 800 electric locomotives and will invest in a production unit ‘Make in India’ in Bihar.
Following the rise of foreign direct investment’s cap from 26 to 49 per cent, AXA made a major investment to increase its share in Bharti group. There are dozens of such examples. SANOFI will soon launch brand new vaccine production units near Hyderabad for India and for export.
Q: Paris suffered the terrible terror attack in November last. India, as you know, has been targeted by terrorists for long now. Most of the terror attacks in India emanate from Pakistan where some of the biggest terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) etc. are based, the United States and the United Nations have for long been pressing Pakistan to take action against these networks. What would you like to tell Pakistan in this regard?
Ans: India and France are confronted with similar threats: we are attacked by murderers who pretend to act on religious basis. Their real objective is widespread hate. They want to undermine our democratic values and our way of life. India and France are united in their determination to act together against terrorism.
France strongly condemned the attack on Pathankot. India is fully justified to ask for justice against perpetrators. I congratulate Prime Minister Modi for his diplomacy reflecting both a sense of proportion and a strong determination. He recently took important steps to engage in a dialogue with the political leadership in Pakistan.
Solidarity between France and India is natural. I would like to thank once again President Mukherjee and Prime Minister Modi for their messages after the Daesh (ISIS) attacks in Paris in November. French people have also been very touched by the numerous gestures of friendship received from all over India. I think in particular of a paper banner 24m long bearing the signatures and drawings of thousands of school children. The flow of Indian tourists and visitors continued to increase this winter, helping Paris to remain the Paris we love. They are warmly welcome, more than ever.
We engage constantly with India. The Indo-French working group on counter-terrorism met just after the Paris attacks in November 2015. That was the best answer to show our determination in front of jihadism.