Interview of Ms Florence Parly to The Times of India

Interview of Ms Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces of France to Rajat Pandit of The Times of India.

New Delhi, 10 September 2020

1) Could you tell us about the strategic partnership between India and France and its prospects in the years ahead?

I am really pleased to come to India again – this is my third visit as Minister for the Armed Forces. Each time, I can feel how close our ties are. And the truth is that they are getting closer. Our strategic partnership dates back to 1998 but the proofs of our mutual attachment have been particularly numerous in recent months. Take the COVID crisis as an example: we helped each other during the worst of the epidemic, including through the delivery of medical assistance by the French Air Force and a 200 million-euro assistance by AFD (French Development Agency). Indo-French friendship is also about standing together in difficult times. Based on the exceptional trust between us, President Macron and Prime Minister Modi have decided to both deepen and expand our strategic partnership. As two maritime nations and neighbors in the Indian Ocean, we will keep working towards an Indo-Pacific region which is peaceful, prosperous and where international law is uphold. Against that background, I definitely welcome the election of India at the UN Security Council starting in 2021, as it will give us the opportunity to further promote our shared goals: multilateralism which is key to address global challenges such as climate change but also strategic autonomy which goes hand in hand with a multipolar Asia in a multipolar world.

2) Since you are here for the formal induction of the Rafale, could you tell us the precise delivery schedule for all the 36 fighters? Has India raised the prospect of ordering additional Rafale? Will France be able to deliver?

The Rafale Combat Aircraft is typical of the quality of the strategic partnership I have just described. It contributes to both boosting India’s capabilities and the overall objective of strategic autonomy. France is a reliable partner, delivery is on schedule. 36 Rafale will be delivered by 2022, five have already reached the Indian soil. We are committed to help the Indian Air Force to make the most out of Rafale as soon as possible. Talking about strategic autonomy, I know how important it is to stick to the principle of Make in India. Therefore, I am glad that the French industrialists are committed to bring about the offsets, which will amount to 50% of the overall deal through investments, jobs creation, technology transfers. These offsets have already begun to materialize, with dozens of agreements concluded with Indian companies. Looking forward, I hope that we will be able to agree on an additional order of Rafale. It would be consistent with the spirit of our partnership and it would provide India’s Air force or its aircraft carriers with a coherent set of aircrafts. But it goes without saying that it is up to India to decide.

3) How would you rate the Rafales against other contemporary fighters in the world, including the Chinese fifth-generation J-20 fighters?

Rafale is definitely one of the best fighter jets of its generation – I would even say that it is second to no one. It is highly reliable as already demonstrated in numerous deployments by France in several theaters. And it is versatile, as it has been designed to perform all Air and Navy missions. The Indian Rafale jets are delivered with all the capacities requested by the Indian Air Force and in particular extremely efficient conventional weapons systems that already equip France’s Rafale. But to answer very clearly your question: I know the Rafale is a powerful military aircraft, because the French Nation use it to defend the French people. That’s how I trust the Rafale capabilities.

4) There is still a political controversy in India about the the Rafale deal. Your comments?

It is not up to me to comment on Indian domestic affairs. Let me simply observe that the Supreme Court decision of November 2018 brought that political bickering to an end. The Rafale contract, as all contracts we sign with India, was negotiated in a very professional and thorough manner. Government-to-government agreement guarantee the full involvement of France throughout the aircrafts’ lifetime and the high level of performance expected by the Indian Air Force.

5) How are India and France cooperating on maritime security and in the Indo-Pacific ? How has the reciprocal military logistics pact worked between India and France?

As you remember, President Macron’s visit to India in March 2018 and Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France in August 2019 were the opportunity to set and consolidate a joint vision for the Indo-Pacific. My job, with my Indian counterpart, Minister Rajnath Singh, is to set it to music through our concrete military cooperation. We share maritime surveillance data, including through our Navy Liaison Officer in Information Fusion Center-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) – the first foreign officer deployed ! As a result, our joint naval exercises are increasingly complex and ambitious (e.g. 2019 Varuna exercise involving the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier), our navies are more interoperable, and we have organized our first joint patrol in the South-Western Indian Ocean earlier this year (February-March).

6) What are your views on the ongoing military confrontation between India and China?

We follow it carefully. I was sad to learn the death of 20 Indian soldiers on June 15th, hence why I wrote to my counterpart Minister Rajnath Singh to express my condolences to the armed forces and solidarity with the grieving families. It is important that de-escalation and disengagement be achieved through dialogue, in full respect of international law and in particular the non-use or threat of force. No country can use the fait accompli policy. We know that the Indian government is determined to follow this path in favor of peace and regional stability.

The interview was published in The Times of India on 10th September 2020.

Last modified on 10/09/2020

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