Official visit to India
New Delhi, October 20, 2011
THE MINISTER – Thank you, your excellency, Mesdames et Messieurs, I’m very pleased to be in Dehli today and I’d like to thank Minister Krishna for his very warm welcome. I will also be meeting the Prime Minister, and all the members of the cabinet during my two-day visit.
As you know, India is a strategic partner for France. This partnership is based on shared values and on the decisive impetus given by the successful visits of the French President in 2008 and 2010.
Our bilateral cooperation has been intensifying in all the sectors key to India’s [inaudible] and security, firstly in defence and nuclear energy.
We’re also bolstering human and cultural exchanges. Minister Krishna and myself have reviewed this progress and have agreed on a roadmap to take them further and fully implement the December 2010 French-Indian declaration. And you will find in our common statement the main topics of this road map.
India is a key strategic player on the international scene. Its role is essential in the resolution of ongoing crisis. This is the reason why I can reaffirm our commitment to enhance French-Indian dialogue, especially in the Security Council, on all issues related to international peace and stability. I’m specifically referring to the issues we discussed this morning.
One of the most important topics we have also discussed was the Cannes G20 summit, in which India will play a decisive role. We addressed different topics such as innovative financing options, the fight against corruption, the reform of global governance and of course the current situation in the global economy, and I also explained to Minister Krishna the initiative that France, Germany and the partners in the eurozone are taking this weekend to comfort this eurozone, the stability of which is essential for us, members of the European union but also for a large part of the world. I am completely confident in the capacity of our heads of state and government to find a sustainable and global agreement during this weekend’s meeting in Frankfurt.
Thank you very much again Mr Minister for your warm welcome, I didn’t visit India during last few years, but I was here when I was Foreign Minister in the 1990s, and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to meet you here and to enhance this strategic partnership between France and India.
CIVILIAN NUCLEAR ENERGY/NUCLEAR SAFETY
Q. – (on civilian nuclear energy and nuclear safety)
THE MINISTER – We discussed this issue of nuclear energies and cooperation we are developing in France and India in this field. We share the view that civilian nuclear energy is a reliable source of energy for the future, provided we develop the highest level of safety rules. We are working on this issue at international level with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and at the national level of course. France is determined to be completely open with its Indian partner on the safety measures we are taking at the moment. We hope that in that framework, it will be possible to develop our cooperation and find an agreement on the EPR project that India wants to implement in the next future.
Q. – (on India’s position on the Syrian crisis)
THE MINISTER – We discussed Syria of course and we tried to have a very open dialogue on this issue on which we have different views.
We think in France that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is losing its legitimacy because no government can use violence, heavy weapons, guns, warships against its population as it occurs in Syria. So we think that the Security Council must not remain silent on such a situation. We prepare a draft resolution which is quite moderate because this resolution doesn’t implement sanctions against Syria. We are just warning Syria that the regime must stop the use of violence against its civilian population and open a programme of reforms. Unfortunately, this resolution has not been passed in the Security Council due to the veto of Russia and China. We are still working on this [inaudible] and at the same time we are developing our relations with the opposition in Syria. Obviously we are not against the resumption of a dialogue between the regime and the opposition if it is still possible, and that is the initiative of the Arab League this week to try get around the table the regime and the opposition, and we hope it will be possible to find an outcome during this dialogue.
We have explained our position to our Indian friends and I fully respect of course the position of your government and your country on this issue, hoping that it will possible to continue the dialogue to explain our respective positions.
Q. – (on Sikhs and religious symbols in France)
THE MINISTER – France has of course been attached to democracy and freedom since the beginning of the French Republic, two centuries ago. France is also a secular state. I know it is difficult to explain what a secular state is. It means that, for us, religion must not interfere on the political scene and on the daily life as far as open areas are concerned. So we have passed a legislation banning the use of religious signs in the open space, in schools and in other official buildings. There is no discrimination against any religion in this law.
The Sikh community is treated exactly as the Christian one, or the Jewish one, or the Muslim one. The implementation of this legislation has not raised, until now, any difficulty. Everybody has understood in France that, at school, for example, or in public services, you must respect this neutrality, which is in the tradition of the French Republic.
Having said that, I agreed with Mr Krishna to have a dialogue between our interior minister and the relevant authorities here in India to find the best condition for the implementation of this legislation in France and we are obviously completely ready to understand the reaction of the Sikh community and to find the best solution.
Q. – (on Pakistan)
THE MINISTER – We are worried about the situation in Pakistan. We are aware of the difficulties raised by this country at the political, economic, and security levels. We think that it is absolutely necessary for us to develop our dialogue with Pakistan because this country has an important role to play, especially in finding a solution in Afghanistan. So we are in touch with our American friends to develop this dialogue and we discussed the point with India. We think that the dialogue with India is also very important and what I propose is to implement or to conceive collective security cooperation around Afghanistan with all its neighbours – especially Pakistan, but also India and some others. We hope that from the dialogue will come appeasement and a peaceful solution in this very sensitive area./.
¹ M. Juppé spoke in English.