Ambassador Ziegler’s interview to The Economic Times
Ambassador Ziegler’s interview to Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury of The Economic Times on the Indo-French industrial cooperation in the aeronautical sector.
New Delhi, 17 June 2019
1) What is principal focus of Paris Air Show? How do you think it will be beneficial for Indo-French strategic partnership?
The 53rd International Paris Air Show has been a key event for the aerospace industry worldwide since 1909. As much as the Indo-French partnership has been on an extremely positive trend over the last years, so is India’s presence at the Paris Air Show, be it in terms of official delegation or the numerous Indian companies which come to form partnerships, promote their products and further their know-how. I am delighted that many CEOs from large and small scale Indian companies, public sector undertakings such as HAL as well as private sector companies have already announced their participation in the Airshow this year. A major Indo-French industrial event has also been planned during the Airshow which will be held between the French Aerospace Industries Association (GIFAS) and its equivalent Indian association, Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM).
The Indo-French industrial cooperation in the aeronautical sector is already very developed. Almost 60 French aeronautical companies already have physical offices in India. There are of course the big groups like Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran and MBDA, but also more and more of MSMEs, and these French industrial facilities in India, which we are strongly supporting, are flourishing. On the field, there are 25 production facilities, which employ several thousand skilled workers across India. This number will grow in years to come.
The choice of India by the French aviation industry was also evident at the Aero India air show in Bangalore last February. With 49 French companies present, France was, by far, the foremost foreign participant in the Salon.
2) When do we expect delivery of first set Rafale jets to India? How hopeful is France to garner order for remaining fighter jets that India wants to acquire?
In accordance with the contractual schedule, the first Rafale with Indian colours will be delivered to the Indian Air Force next September, exactly 3 years after the signing of the intergovernmental agreement by the French and Indian defence ministers on September 23, 2016. It will be followed till the delivery of the 36th aircraft, at the pace stipulated in the contract.
Regarding the future orders for combat aircraft desired by India, Dassault Aviation is participating in two calls for tender, with the full support of the French government. The Rafale has thus been proposed to meet the requirement of 110 multi-role fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, and the Rafale’s naval version, Rafale M (M stands for Marine, Navy in French), has been proposed to meet the requirement of 57 multirole aircraft on-board for the Navy. It is important to note that the Rafale is the only modern combat aircraft in the world to have been developed from the outset to simultaneously meet these two complementary needs, for the air force and the navy’s aircraft carriers, it clearly distinguish the Rafale from its competitors.
It will, of course, be up to the Indian Government, to decide on the follow-up to be given to these competitions and to select the most appropriate proposal for its needs and priorities. We are confident in the strengths of our offers to India in this sector, which is in keeping with the high-level partnership between our two countries.
3) France is the key pillar of India’s Outreach to Europe. What are the main elements of this strategic partnership?
I will use three words to describe the foundation of our strategic partnership:
Trust: France has been beside India from the beginning and at all times, even during the most challenging moments. I will give you two examples. We have been among India’s leading space partners. This cooperation, which began in the 1960s with launchers and is now flourishing through the co-construction of satellites and ambitious goals (going to Venus, sending men into space), has never been interrupted. We have also always been beside India in the fight against terrorism, from the terrorist attack in Mumbai to that in Pulwama. We concretely are acting together to punish those responsible, as we have done in the case of the listing of Masood Azhar, to combat the financing of terrorism or to fight violent extremism on the Internet, as very recently with the Christchurch Call.
Shared values and strategic interests: we are two democracies that promote respect for the rule of law and multilateralism, and are attached to their strategic autonomy.
Momentum: in twenty years, our strategic partnership served as an impetus for existing cooperation, as in the space sector, and integrated new axes of cooperation, such as maritime safety in the Indian Ocean. Space security and digital technology are some of the new horizons for this partnership.
4) How can India and France add more momentum and meat to their partnership in the Indo-Pacific region including Indian Ocean Region?
France and India have already achieved an exceptional level of cooperation in this area.
In fact, although our navies have been interacting since the 1980s, the state visit of the President of the French Republic to India in 2018 gave a strategic tour to this area of cooperation.
It allowed us to adopt a joint vision of Indo-French cooperation in the Indian Ocean region, which marks the convergence of our strategic interests in the region. We have also deepened our cooperation in the field of maritime surveillance, and raised the level of our operational cooperation with the reciprocal logistic support agreement between our armies, which facilitates the access of to the partner’s bases.
Since then, political, operational and industrial exchanges have been continuous, with the visit of our authorities (visit of the Chief of Staff of the French Navy- CEMM), port calls (Cassard in January in Bombay) and the Varuna 2019 exercise.
Several axes of deepening strategic ties exist. In the field of maritime surveillance, we want to further increase our exchanges: we have announced a French liaison officer’s posting to the new Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in the summer of 2019. In the operational field, by further raising the level of sophistication of our exercise, such as Varuna 2019, which has reached significant heights in terms of interaction complexity and interoperability.
5) What would be key elements of PM Modi’s visit to France in August for G-7 summit?
India will be particularly associated to the discussions on digital technology and environment. We know that India is an indispensable stakeholder for those key governance issues. India participated in the G7 “Tech for Humanity” meeting of Digital Ministers in May in Paris and on this occasion announced its support to the Christchurch Call. On digital issues, our approaches converge on major regulatory issues, such as the fight against hate content, the responsibility of private platforms, the protection of personal data, and much more. We hope that the bilateral engagement our political authorities will have on the sidelines of Biarritz will be the occasion to set our common approach in this field, consolidate the development of our cooperation and open a new horizon.
6) What do you think India should do more to attract foreign investments including from France.
French companies have a strong presence in India with nearly 600 subsidiaries covering the whole country and employing more than 3,50,000 people. This presence will further strengthen in the future and result in a significant investment flow, because French companies have fully integrated the "Make in India" initiative and are active in many sectors of activity: services, especially digital, aeronautics, the automobile industry, agri-food or urban services. Our companies invest in India, manufacture in India, innovate in India and succeed in India. I can cite, for example, Capgemini, which has crossed the milestone of 1,00,000 employees, Decathlon, which opened 70 stores in five years or Atos, which has become India’s main industrial partner in the field of supercomputing.
Much has been done to facilitate international investment in India.
French companies have understood this well and they are increasing their presence here. I particularly have in mind the renewable energy sector where last month, the French companies EDF and Engie won projects for 500 GW, which will represent nearly half a billion euros of investment.
The interview was published in "The Economic Times" on 17th June 2019.