French National Day Reception
Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler’s address at the reception
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New Delhi, 14 July 2016
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s an honour for my wife and me to welcome you to the Residence of France on our National Day.
With us today are our Indian partners and friends and the diplomatic community, together with some leading representatives of French community institutions here. I would like to welcome them and extend my warmest thanks and appreciation for their presence.
I would like to warmly thank the Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr MJ Akbar, and the National Security Advisor, Mr Ajit Doval for their presence. Mr Minister, it’s a great honour to have you here. Thank you so much for being tonight our guest of honour.
As you know, I arrived here six weeks ago, and my wife just a few days ago and I have been deeply touched by your warm welcome. I am very grateful and thankful for your many gestures of kindness. Thanks to this, after just a few weeks, I can really say that I feel very much at home here in India.
It’s a great pleasure, a great honour to be in a country with which France has such deep-rooted historical ties of friendship. You will see in the Residence a bust of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which has just been gifted to France by the government of Punjab. Next September, it will be installed in the city of St-Tropez, the birthplace of General Allard, who came to India to serve him and train his army. His symbolic presence today is a reminder of those many heroes who forged, over the past centuries, the enduring bonds of solidarity and trust between our countries.
Our bilateral relation is excellent. It’s always been based not only on shared values but also on a single but very priceless word: trust. France and India know that they can count on each other.
The invitation of the President of the French Republic as the Chief Guest of India’s Republic Day celebrations last January, and the military parade bringing together the French and the Indian armies are the best symbols of these relations between our two countries.
Since launching our strategic partnership back in 1998, we have developed an ever-increasing cooperation on key strategic issues, including defence, counter-terrorism, space, and civil nuclear energy. India is our main strategic partner in Asia and this partnership will further increase and develop.
But, our cooperation goes far beyond this. I would like to express France’s will to build what we can call a “partnership for the future with India” by actively supporting the major programmes that are shaping tomorrow’s India. In this, sustainable urban development, transport, renewable energy will play a major role, following the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which owes so much to India; and in the framework of the major programmes and initiatives already launched by the Government of India. In all these sectors, the French government and French companies have long-standing expertise and are keen to work closely with India. Let me say that the French “green team” stands ready for this.
In addition, we must build on the already dynamic relations between our civil societies. We need to further increase the number of Indian students choosing France as a destination for education, as well as the number of French students going to India. It has already doubled over the last five years. We can do more. Culture, fashion and art are strongly related to the images of both France and India. We must enhance our relations in all these sectors and forge, what I would call a strong “partnership from the heart” between our two countries. In this respect, I am delighted to announce that we will hold the third edition of “Bonjour India”, the festival of France in India, next year. It will be a wonderful opportunity to bring Indian and French people closer.
Strategic partnership, partnership for the future, partnership from the heart – these will be our top priorities in the coming years, here in India.
And because France strongly believes in India’s future and wants to be a part of it, I would like to emphasise on a key aspect: this partnership is real; it’s not made of mere words. France invests here in India and makes here in India, and what’s more, France innovates here in India.
Let me give you some figures: French companies in India have an investment stock of over 20 billion euros and employ over three lakh qualified people. Our top companies have already committed to investing 8 billion euros more over the next three years. We also very much welcome Indian investments in France, a perfect gateway to the European Union.
On the innovation side, France is a creative and innovative country. Today, France is, for instance, the world’s fourth most dynamic country for patents. I am glad to see that more and more of our companies are locating R&D centres here in India. They innovate, create and eventually make right here in India some of the highly innovative solutions that will shape tomorrow’s world. I will come back to this later, by presenting an award to a French company in recognition of their innovative enterprises.
Ladies and gentlemen, a partnership is about trust and confidence. It’s also about long-term commitment and it’s on forward-looking projects. This is how we must regard our bilateral partnership.
So let me conclude on this positive note and in French: Vive l’Inde! Vive la France, vive le partenariat indo-français!