Shri A.S. Kiran Kumar conferred “Knight of the Legion of Honour”
Highest French Distinction “Knight of the Legion of Honour”, conferred on Shri A.S. Kiran Kumar, former Chairman of ISRO.
New Delhi, 2 May 2019
On behalf of the President of the French Republic, the Ambassador of France to India, H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler, today conferred the distinction of Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur on Shri A.S. Kiran Kumar, former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chairman of CNES, the French space agency, was present at the special investiture ceremony held at the Residence of France.
France’s highest French civilian honour comes in recognition of Shri A.S. Kiran Kumar’s invaluable contribution to the development of the India-France space cooperation.
Throughout his career at ISRO, including as chairman of the organisation between 2015 and 2018, Shri A.S. Kiran Kumar fostered the historic and ambitious space cooperation between India and France. He directly contributed to making this a cooperation of peoples as well as one of the cornerstones of the Indo-French strategic partnership.
Created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur (National Order of the Legion of Honour) is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipient. The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur.
Dear Dr Kiran Kumar,
Dear Jean-Yves Le Gall,
I am very pleased to welcome you here today at the Residence of France to honour Mr AS Kiran Kumar and to acknowledge his contribution to the exemplary cooperation between India and France in space.
Space is a cornerstone of the strategic dialogue between our two countries. There is no summit meeting between our political leaders without space being on the agenda. The cooperation between our two nations today extends to every field of space activities. We share common interests and common objectives, mainly the principle of using technology to serve society. In that sense, the relationship between ISRO and its French counterpart, CNES - a history of almost 60 years! - is much more than a purely technological cooperation.
But this historic success is, above all, a history of people, a history of solidarity and friendship between exceptional personalities.
Personalities like Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of Indian space programme, and Dr Jacques Blamont, the first Director of our National Space Agency.
Personalities like you, dear Dr Kiran Kumar; and friendships like the one you have developed with Jean-Yves Le Gall, the current chairman of our French and European space agency, who insisted to be present today, traveling all the way from Paris especially for this occasion.
Mr Kiran Kumar, you hail from Hassan, Karnatak, where you were born in 1952. You obtained your Physical Engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, in 1975. We were lucky that you were too young to be admitted to the medical school and chose Physics instead! And less than three years later, you made your first trip to France, to visit French companies to source items for cameras and imaging on satellites. This would be just the beginning of an enriching series of visits to France, and – as you have yourself said several times – the start of a special attachment to our country. I bet it was for your daughter and nephew, too, who received new toys brought back from France each time.
The forty years of your career at ISRO are so impressive that it would take the all evening to recall all your achievements. Let’s simply say that you have become the father of the Earth observation satellites programme, contributing to the design and development of more than 50 Electro-Optical imaging sensors flown on many satellites, from Bhaskhara in 1979 to the payloads on-board the Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013. You have actually played a crucial role in the Chandrayaan 1 mission. India also owes you the development of indigenous launch vehicles providing an assured access to space.
As the Chairman of ISRO, you placed India on a high pedestal with the successful deployment of the satellite navigation constellation NAVIC or the qualification of India’s heaviest lifter GSLV Mark 3.
And very soon in your career, you have been a strong believer in the Indo-French cooperation.
Before even becoming the Chairman of ISRO, you, as the Director of ISRO’s Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, coordinated and conducted the conception of every Indo-French mission. Everybody would remember how you drew on your exceptional personal skills to bring French and Indian teams together. Successes like these don’t come easily. When methods and calendars conflicted, when processes had to be learned from each other, you continuously served as the facilitator, not because of your position, but because of your heart. Indeed, during your impressive career as one of the greatest Indian space experts of all times, you have constantly shown an outstanding ability to motivate people to give their best.
At CNES, everyone agrees it is your personal sense of leadership that helped forge the trusted relationship we enjoy today, which has made working between Paris and Bangalore as seamless as between Paris and Toulouse.
Some have described you as the most down-to-earth space scientist, and I think this describes your personality quite well. Both modest and resolute, you have inspired the French teams that have worked in India.
Hence, when in 2015 you became the Chairman of ISRO, many of us cheered it as the success of a friend. Jean-Yves Le Gall, who is here with us this evening, reminded me how enthusiastically the news of your nomination was welcomed in Paris.
Rightfully indeed, since you immediately started working on a renewed and expended cooperation agreement between CNES and ISRO that would formally engage India and France in the long term.
Under your leadership, Dr Kiran Kumar, French and Indian teams joined hands on launch vehicle technologies, Earth observation, communication and navigation satellites. They initiated joint programmes ranging from joint rocket engine development to shared satellite missions.
In structuring our cooperation for the long term, you have demonstrated a vision. You have built a partnership that was not only aiming at the progress of space technologies, but mostly at the benefit to the common man.
The Indo-French satellites Megha-Tropiques and Saral-Altika have brought operational applications like fresh water management, monsoon forecast, support to agriculture, and the upcoming joint missions, Oceansat-Argos and Trishna, that you fathered, will extend these direct benefits to numerous new uses. The discussion of the joint programme for a constellation of maritime domain awareness satellites, signed in the presence of Prime Minister Modi and President Macron last year, also originated under your leadership.
Today India and France have built together one of the strongest technological cooperation between two nations. Our partnership in space is seen worldwide as a model of bilateral cooperation between two governments in high technology fields, and has even become a subject of academic research.
I am firmly convinced that our mature cooperation holds the promise of an even bigger future. And that France and India will soon demonstrate their ability to craft collective answers to the 21st century’s space challenges. Our two space power nations are up to the task.
Dr Kiran Kumar, we owe it to you.
You will be remembered by France as a great advocate of the Indo-French friendship in space, and the father of the modern cooperation in space between India and France.
For all these reasons, you deserve the recognition of the French Republic.
Dear Kiran Kumar, in recognition of your distinguished merits, the President of the French Republic has decided to honour you with knighthood in the National Order of the Legion of Honour.
I am delighted to bestow this honour on you, and as required by Protocol, I will now proceed in French.
Monsieur AS Kiran Kumar, au nom du Président de la République, nous vous faisons Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur.