An evening to bid farewell
An evening to bid farewell hosted by Ambassador of France to India, Alexandre Ziegler and Mrs Véronique Ziegler.
New Delhi, 21 August 2019
As his tenure as Ambassador of France to India draws to an end, H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler and Mrs Véronique Ziegler hosted a reception to bid farewell to their friends in India on Wednesday, 21st August at the Residence of France.
Check against delivery.
It is a pleasure to welcome you all this evening at the Residence of France. Well, both pleasure and sadness, because today is the last time that Véronique and I will be hosting you here.
This moment of separation unfortunately recurs too frequently in our careers. One doesn’t really get used to it. But with over twenty years of experience in my life as a diplomat, I’m in a position to say that some of these moments are tougher than others. And today is one of those.
Bidding farewell is always a difficult art. There’s, obviously, all that needs to be said – and I will say it. But there’s also what’s in the heart, which one would like to be able to say. I will try to do that, too.
What I need to say can be summed up in three observations:
- The first is that, I am leaving with the conviction that we’ve accomplished some good work together. I’m not going to do a stock-taking of these three years. It would take too long. But what’s sure is that we have crossed a milestone over the past years. A milestone at the strategic level – that’s obvious. A milestone in the very strong personal rapport that has developed between our two leaders, Emmanuel Macron and Narendra Modi. But also a milestone in people-to-people ties, which is perhaps the most vital: exchanges between our students, our businesswomen and businessmen, our artists, our scientists, our youth, have grown considerably. And they are the ones who nurture our relationship everyday.
- The second observation is that, if I’ve achieved some measure of success in my work here, it’s because all of you – all of you in the Indian administration, in civil society, in our corporate sector – you have all opened your doors and your hearts to me in a remarkable manner. I sincerely thank you for this. And it’s also because I’ve been lucky to have an amazing team by my side, with whom I’ve enjoyed working so much, whom I’ve been pleased and proud to lead. A professional and warm team that is deeply dedicated to its mission. My dear colleagues, I know how very much I owe to you.
- The third observation – and that’s always the most painful – is that I’m leaving behind many very dear friends – Indians, French, foreign diplomats. Many more friends, if I may say so, than I have ever left behind anywhere else in previous posts. And many are those who will remain lifelong friends. Because that’s also the magic of our nomadic lives: these encounters, which, unlike the limited time of our tenures, are made to last.
Now, allow me to say, too, a bit more of what’s in the heart.
What I would like to say, if you allow me to be a bit unrestrained, is how very passionately I have loved this country. There are places in the world – and these aren’t necessarily the ones that are the closest or the easiest – where one feels instantly at home. I have very deeply experienced this inexplicable, very personal feeling here.
I have enjoyed crisscrossing India, relentlessly, almost every week; I came to love its cultures, its energy, its pride, its immense diversity and, at the same time, its ability to be a nation. Above all, I came to love its people. I was perhaps something of an Indian in another life. Perhaps I’ll be one in my next life. But what is sure is that India will remain in my heart, in our hearts, Véronique’s and mine.
They say, to do our jobs as diplomats well, we must learn to keep our distance. That’s certainly true. But I also believe that we can’t do this job well – even less so in India than elsewhere – without empathy or passion. This is what I’ve felt in my three and half years here.
Beyond diplomatic slogans, I would also like to say how deeply I believe in the almost existential nature of our Indo-French relationship.
Of course, there are economic and strategic interests for France in this country, and they are huge.
But there’s far more than this. If we are friends – I was going to say allies – and not just partners, it’s because we share the same vision of the world. We are not living in an easy period. The markers on which we had built our international system over 70 years are falling apart before our very eyes or are deeply challenged: values like democracy, adherence to international law, multilateralism, the desire to cooperate together when we need to face the new challenges of the world, such as climate change, terrorism, or internet governance.
We do share these values with India. We see it every day, and we’ll see it again tomorrow with Prime Minister Modi in Paris, and from Saturday, at the G7. And let’s be realistic. Perhaps in a few years there will be a dozen – or maybe less – major countries in the world with which we, French and Europeans, will be able to forge alliances to protect and reform this international order. India will obviously be among these countries. I see in this observation one of the most absolute justifications of our partnership with India.
My dear friends, in a few days, I will leave this embassy in the hands of a new ambassador, a thorough professional whom I know well as he was also my batchmate. I would like you to extend the same welcome to him and his family as you did to us almost three and half years ago, which so quickly enabled me, Véronique and our children to feel at home in India.
What I must tell you lastly is that, after India, I’m turning a page in my professional life. In a few days I will be back in Paris to try out a new adventure. I will continue to serve my country, maybe in a different way. I will continue to crisscross the world and return again and again to India, which is also our home now.
To all of you, my dear friends, I say: à bientôt, fir milengué!
Alexandre Ziegler graduated from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Institute of Political Studies) in Paris and holds a degree in history (the prestigious “Agrégation”). He is an alumnus of École Normale Supérieure as well as of the French National School of Administration (1995-1997). Fluent in English and German, he also has a working knowledge of the Chinese language.
He began his career as a diplomat in 1997, when he was appointed to the permanent post of Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was followed by a 4-year stint at the Strategic, Security and Disarmament Affairs Division of the same ministry (1997-2000).
In a series of overseas assignments, he served as Deputy Consul General in Hong Kong (2000-2003), before being posted as First Secretary in Berlin (2003-2007), then Counsellor for Culture and Cooperation in Beijing (2007-2010).
Thereafter, he was appointed Head of Programmes and Network at the Globalisation, Development, and Partnerships Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2010-2012). From 2013 to February 2016, he served as the Head of the Foreign Minister’s Political Office (Directeur de Cabinet/Chief of Staff to the Minister).
He presented his credentials to the President of the Republic of India, His Excellency Shri Pranab Mukherjee, at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday, 2nd July 2016.
In November 2016, he was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite (Knight of the National Order of Merit) in recognition of his dedicated service to his country.