Friday,17 Nov 2017 07:13 PM IST
Drian will pay a two-day visit during 17-18 November. The visit comes ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India to attend the International Solar Alliance conference. Excerpts from the interview:
Your visit comes ahead of a visit by President Emmanuel Macron to India when he will attend the International Solar Alliance conference. What areas of bilateral cooperation will be the focus for your visit?
I am delighted to be in India and lay the groundwork for the upcoming visit of President Emmanuel Macron. The relationship between India and France is especially strong. It dates long back to History. Since Independence, our friendship has grown ceaselessly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to our partnership as an “all-weather partnership”. It could not be better expressed. India is our foremost strategic partner in Asia and our only strategic partner in South Asia. We have key cooperation in very sensitive areas, such as counter-terrorism, defence, civil nuclear energy, space. In the Indian Ocean, where India occupies a central position and France has major interests linked to its overseas territories, we are in the process of forging a real defence and security partnership. Our economic relations are developing, with an increasing number of French companies investing massively in India, particularly in the promising sector of sustainable urban development and renewable energy. One of the aims of my visit is also to strengthen people-to-people ties between our two countries, and it is with great pleasure that I will inaugurate Bonjour India, which through more than 300 events spread across India, from November 2017 to February 2018, will help highlight an innovative and creative France, as well as the vitality of the Indo-French partnership.
Recently, a bid by US, Britain and France to designate Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council was blocked by China, a move India has pursued as well. How do you respond to this and will France try again for the designation?
Along with the US and the UK, France had presented a resolution to list Masood Azhar as a terrorist under the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council, which rules on sanctions against terrorists. We had done so because it is clear to us that the head of a terrorist organization should be listed just as the organization itself is. It is deeply regrettable that we could not reach a consensus on such an obvious request for designation. In combating the terrorist threat, regardless of place, there should not be any split in the international community. As for India and France, they are in full solidarity in the face of terrorism and know that they can count on each other.
On Climate Change, given US decision to pull out of the Paris deal, how do India and France propose to cooperate on fighting global warming? Also, is there any attempt to hold the US to account for its decision, penalize the US, etc.?
The Paris Agreement remains the pillar for combatting climate change. It is irreversible and non-renegotiable. After America announced its decision, President Macron, Prime Minister Modi and the entire international community reaffirmed the relevance of the commitments made in Paris and their resolve to fulfil them. We closely cooperate with India on climate change issues. India has been a key partner for COP21: I would like to recall that it particularly helped enshrine important concepts, such as “climate justice”, in the Paris Agreement. Today we share the same priorities: consolidating the Paris Agreement, and making progress in defining the modalities of its implementation, which is the aim of COP23. We are rallying partners for building the International Solar Alliance, which now has 44 countries under its umbrella and will enable them to gain facilitated access to solar energy. We wish to continue forging ahead. It’s a more constructive approach than trying to penalise the United States.
Despite an MoU being signed in 2009, the Jaitapur nuclear power project negotiated between Indian and French official has made little progress. Power pricing, sourcing of parts, terms of the contract, legal issues remain some of the worries, even as EDF has taken over the Areva contract. Will the next step in this deal, the general framework agreement be signed during President Macron’s visit?
I don’t agree with that. Negotiations have, in fact, advanced well in keeping with the jointly drawn road map.
This project is extremely important for India’s economic development and its fight against climate change. Six EPRs will generate a total capacity of almost 10 GW, thus contributing significantly to India’s goal to produce 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuels by 2030 – in keeping with its commitments announced ahead of the Paris Climate Change Conference. The Jaitapur project will also contribute to Make in India because it involves transfers of production, technology, joint research, training.
As far as the price is concerned, the Indian government took a major decision in early 2015 by reorienting the project to six EPR-type reactors at the same site (instead of 2 + an option for 4 more). This decision will lead to achieving significant economies of scale and help distribute the development costs over six reactors straightaway, which themselves are high-power reactors. This basis ensures the project’s economic viability. It is based on this hypothesis that the discussions between EDF and NPCIL are advancing – and advancing satisfactorily.
One of the issues that have come up in bilateral meetings, including during the visit of Defence Minister Ms. Parly, is a possible second order for Rafale fighters (which of course was originally negotiated at the bilateral level by you). How confident are you that India will agree to this order, especially given France is increasingly in competition with the US?
Our defence cooperation is longstanding – it’s one of the pillars of our strategic relation. And as I just said, it is based on solid friendship and trust in the face of all adversity. With the Rafale agreement, France and India paved the way for industrial and technological cooperation for the coming fifty years. We would be very happy to support India if it wished to complete its acquisitions, keeping in mind its legitimate desire to possess its own autonomous defence industry. As for competition, the Rafale is a very high-performance and competitive jet, which is a formidable defence apparatus for India that possesses all the assets needed to convince it – as it has already demonstrated the very first time.