THE PRESIDENT – I’m at the end of the first day of my state visit to India. I’d like to thank the Indian authorities – the President, the Prime Minister – and all the people I’ve met, for their welcome.
I wanted to come to India for my first state visit to Asia as President for several reasons. The first relates to history. There’s a relationship between France and India that draws on our oldest respective cultures. In recent years and decades, whenever India has needed France, France has been there. I haven’t forgotten, either, that in the conflicts we unfortunately had in the course of the 20th century in another part of the world, India likewise stood alongside us. (…)
I wanted to come to India as President for this state visit because I also wanted to be part of the strategic partnership defined in 1998. It was then that the key foundation still linking us today was laid. Through this partnership, the defence pillar was laid; civilian nuclear energy too, even though France had already, for several years, done everything to ensure India could gain access to that technology; likewise, the shared determination to fight any threats to the world, particularly terrorism; and there’s also the space partnership, which means Indian satellites are launched by France.
I also wanted to come to India because there’s room to broaden this partnership, to ensure we can build a relationship that is as complete as possible, particularly at economic level. It was my view that, even though we’re an important investor in India, we’re only the ninth; even though our trade is hugely significant, it’s far from the target once set of €12 billion – it stands at barely €8 billion.
I also wanted us to be able to discuss every field: not simply defence – even though we have a number of prospects, particularly through the Rafale plane – but also civilian nuclear energy, because we want to take part in the Indian challenge to fully master that technology. But also fields like transport, the environment, public services etc. In short, we want to play our full role in the Indian economy, and I also want to make an appeal to Indian companies to come and invest in France.
I also wanted us to be able to discuss subjects that haven’t been discussed enough until now, like higher education, education, scientific cooperation etc. Several agreements will be signed, or are about to be, between French and Indian universities and between scientific laboratories.
At cultural level, there will be a very important event at the next Cannes festival, because the centenary of Indian cinema will be celebrated. We’ll also find we have the same way of thinking about culture, based on diversity, the cultural exception, and protecting creative works and authors. (…)
MALI INTERVENTION/INDIAN UN ROLE/EU-INDIA TRADE TALKS
I want to thank India for the support she’s given us on the intervention in Mali. It’s not an isolated action by France, it’s an operation, decided in the United Nations framework, to fight terrorism at the request of a friend, Mali. India has understood perfectly and reminded us again how we must fight terrorism and how we should be more mutually supportive in relation to these threats.
Lastly, I also want to emphasize that India and France uphold the same positions in the major international bodies. That’s why I recalled that France supports India’s bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council.
Likewise, I’d like India and Europe to be able to cooperate more. That’s why France supports the trade negotiations that are going to begin between India and Europe. There you are, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the purpose of my visit: history, complementarity, shared values but also a determination to set the relationship between France and India in the context of the future and take new initiatives in every possible area, to highlight this exceptional relationship. (…)
Q. – You’re known for your probity. Can you give us a guarantee that there will be no wheeler-dealing, no corruption, during the sale of the Rafales?
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you for paying tribute to our probity. But it must be demonstrated! So I can make a commitment here that there will be nothing contrary to the principles we share: in other words, that trade must be carried out simply according to commercial rules. Choices must be made on the basis of competitiveness and effectiveness. We’re vigilant in the fight against corruption, as is India, because it’s an essential principle.
As for the way I present a commercial proposal – to be clear about it, the Rafale – I aim to convey the excellence of that aircraft. It so happens that the French army has Rafales whose full effectiveness is repeatedly praised. There are no other arguments.
Q. – (…) Regarding the Rafale contracts, it appears that two sources in the Indian Ministry of Defence are mentioning the possibility of signing a contract in July. Is this a scenario that seems possible to you?
THE PRESIDENT – (…) On the Rafale, I agreed with the Indian Prime Minister that there has been progress and we can conclude matters, but that it depends on the trade negotiation. It’s up to it to ensure India definitively chooses this aircraft.
I put not all my weight but all my trust in the company presenting this aircraft, in the aircraft itself and in India for using it. (…)./.