India is a Factor of Stability in South Asia, Says French Defence Minister

July 26, 2013

New Delhi: Terming India as a “major priority” for French diplomacy, The Defence Minister of France, HE Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, today said that both nations “are moving forward together in intense cooperation in sensitive areas, such as defence, civilian nuclear energy, space, security and counter-terrorism”. The Minister, who is on a visit to India to mark the 15th anniversary of the Indo-French strategic partnership, concluded in 1998, and to introduce the French White Paper on ‘Defence and National Security’, was delivering a talk on ‘Indo-French Defence Partnership: The Choice of Strategic Autonomy’ at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on July 26, 2013.

Briefing the audience on the French white paper released last April, the minister said that the new ‘White Paper reconciles the two imperatives of sovereignty, “Our strategic autonomy and our financial sovereignty, at a time when the threat level has not dipped but the crisis in Europe has weakened our public finances.” France will have a new military and industrial strategy that will guarantee its strategic autonomy. “On an average, this accounts for a defence spending of 1.8% of France’s GDP till 2020, according to NATO norms, the minister added.

Responding to a query on the delay over the Rs 50,000 crore deal for supplying 126 Rafale combat aircraft to India, the Minister said the projects of such magnitude take time to materialise. The schedule and the pace of the project is normal, said the minister expressing hope that India and France will continue to work together on many other projects as well.

Talking about future Cyber security threats, he said that the issue is an important part of the White paper and the French R&D team is being strengthened to focus on the same. He added that both India and France will continue to discuss Cyber Security within the framework of strategic relations. An Indo-French Cyber Security Dialogue has been launched.

Reacting to a query about the standard of combat aircrafts, India is importing from France, he said that the Rafale are State of Art aircrafts and the same holds true for other products India is importing from France.

Dwelling on the importance place that India occupies in the White paper, the minister said that the “White Paper highlights India’s economic emergence, and the privileged bilateral relation, enshrined in the strategic partnership established in 1998, which enables us to cooperate in areas that involve the major interests of the two countries.” He further added that “India appears to us as a factor of stability” and that they “support the reform of the United Nations Security Council that would make room for new permanent members, which would include India.”

Discussing further the industrial and technological cooperation between both the countries, the minister stated that it was on the right path and that “The DCNS Company is currently building six Scorpene submarines at the Mazagaon Docks shipyard (MDL) in Mumbai, with complete transfer of technology”. The first submarine will be launched in 2014 and in “the near future MDL, India will possess a performing asset for building additional submarines” he concluded.

Talking about the MMRCA project the minister said that the project is the priority and that there will be a framework Indo-French intergovernmental Agreement for this contract, which will provide all the necessary guarantees of the French State. “Beyond aircraft, an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation between our two countries is commencing”, he said, insisting that in this respect “France is prepared to initiate joint co-development and co-production projects.”

France, insisted the minister, was ready to share an increasing level of defence technology, in connection with the development of joint projects and assured India of the continuity of supplies for acquired equipment.

Elaborating further on the White Paper on Defence, the Minister said that for his country, “National sovereignty depends on the State’s autonomy of assessment, decision-making and action”, however insisting that it does not imply that his nation is cloaked in isolation or unilateralism. “We intend to cooperate with our partners and our allies for the world’s security. We respect international law. This is both a choice and a necessity. But we intend to remain in control of our decisions and our actions with regard to defence and security.”

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Complete text of address