Transcript : Interview given by President Nicolas Sarkozy on the eve of the EU-India Summit and the France-India Summit : September 28, 2008
Interview of Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic answering the questions of PTI, news agency.
1- As President of the European Union Council, what are the key issues that will figure in your talks with the Indian Prime Minister in Marseille ?
I would like, first of all, to express my great pleasure at receiving the Prime Minister of India in Marseille. Through him, I will be welcoming, on behalf of the European Union, one of the world’s biggest countries, a great democracy, an old civilisation with which Europe shares values and nurtures substantive and growing exchanges.
The Marseille Summit will enable us to intensify further the political side of the relations between the Union and India, which are already exceptionally strong at the commercial level.
We shall speak of the major challenges that we have to face together :
the financial crisis requires urgent joint action. I have made proposals in this respect that I will share with the Prime Minister.
climate change and food security : we need to act together in a spirit of shared responsibility.
terrorism, that has again so painfully hit India recently and which calls for determined action.
We shall further raise regional issues of common interest, such as the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran or Burma.
We shall discuss Euro-Indian cooperations in the areas of the future : research, new technologies, energy, higher and vocational education.
As you see, it’s an ambitious agenda which tackles today’s urgent issues as well as long-term answers that have to be elaborated jointly.
2. What will be the main agenda of talks when you receive the Indian Prime Minister in Paris ?
This visit holds a special meaning for me. Last January, I was India’s Guest of Honour for Republic Day. I was impressed ; it was a privileged moment. I had in-depth exchanges with the Prime Minister which enabled us to build a personal relationship for the benefit of our two countries. I am delighted in turn to receive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Paris. This Summit will confirm how close France and India are : we are friends and strategic partners. During this Summit, which is taking place at a time of great challenges for the world, we will achieve progress in three areas : Our cooperations for peace and security, counter-terrorism, will be further enhanced. We will launch our civil nuclear cooperation which will become a cornerstone of our partnership. We will take decisions that will enhance our human, cultural, economic and scientific links. Moreover, I will reaffirm the need to give India its full share of responsibilities by becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and of an enlarged G8. The need is so obvious : how can we address today’s political, economic and global challenges without India ?
3-The relations between India and France have always been friendly and shown continuous growth over the years. But some feel a lot of potential remains untapped. What is your view ? In which areas do you think the engagement needs to be enhanced ?
I agree. The excellent quality of our relations makes it even more important to go further, be more ambitious, develop in-depth links between India and France.
Let me take just three examples :
We all face the scourge of terrorism, and I would like to express France’s solidarity with India, which was recently so brutally hit. We can and must increase our cooperations for security.
India is engaged in a major plan to develop its infrastructures and achieve food security in the long term. France has a lot to offer in this respect.
France is a country of modern technologies and has an excellent higher education system. We want to receive more Indian students in France, because the present level is far from satisfactory.
4. What are you striving to achieve in the field of civil nuclear energy ?
The agreement between India and IAEA as well as the NSG’s decision are historic landmarks. France has been working towards this over the past ten years and I have personnally been actively involved in building the consensus that has emerged at the IAEA and NSG.
I’ve done so because it’s important for India’s development, because it’s important for the energy security of the world, the fight against global warming, and because these agreements and decisions strengthen the global non-proliferation regime.
Now the time has come for implementation and France wants to be a key partner of India in this respect.
France is the world leader in nuclear energy, which provides us 40% of our energy needs and 80% of our electricity in both competitive and eco-friendly conditions.
Given the potential of our two countries, France’s expertise and know-how in this key area, the long tradition of cooperation and exchanges between our scientists and engineers, the atmosphere of trust between our respective countries, the prospects are very promising.
A wide area of cooperation is opening up : research, training, safety and security. When it comes to power generation, the entry into force of our bilateral agreement, under the umbrella of the IAEA and NSG decisions, will open the possibility for Areva and its Indian counterparts to discuss the provision of the latest nuclear plant technologies, the EPR, to India, and to set up the necessary long-term cooperations for its smooth functioning.
5. Terrorism is a major concern in India just as it is across the world. After the recent serial blasts in Delhi, you had said you would like to discuss with the Prime Minister ways to strengthen cooperation against the scourge. Can you share with us your ideas regarding this ?
I would like to repeat our solidarity in the face of terrorism. Terrorism is a scourge, a form of unacceptable barbarity that nothing can justify. I am aware of the heavy cost that India, like too many countries in the world, is paying in this respect.
We have to work alongside each other to rise to this challenge and defeat terror. That’s why we shall hold in-depth discussions on this issue in Marseille and Paris. We shall, quite simply, continue to increase our cooperations in all fields, such as judicial and police cooperation, exchange of informations, joint work in appropriate multilateral fora, etc.
6. In the economic field, do you see any scope for further enhancement of cooperation. If yes, which are the areas in which you would like increased engagement ?
First of all, I would like to recall that the European Union is India’s first trade partner.
When it comes to our bilateral trade, the growth has been impressive these last few years. Global trade between India and France reached 6 billion euros last year, with exports and imports almost equal. To cite an example, with Airbus and ATR, France has become one of India’s main partners in aeronautics.
There is more to this than just trade. French companies invest a lot in India and already employ around 100,000 persons there. Indian companies are becoming increasingly aware of France’s potential and I want to promote Indian investment in France, a modern country that keeps reforming and progressing in order to remain at the top of world’s nations.
Our common goal, set last January in New Delhi, is ambitious but realistic : achieving 12 billion euros in bilateral trade by 2012 and developing investment both ways. The business delegations that will meet in Paris this week will be able to establish new and strong links. I attach special importance to the new “high-level business forum” that we are creating.
I think that we should increase the presence of French companies in several sectors :
infrastructure, environment and energy, first of all. It’s one of France’s key assets in the world.
agriculture and food processing, in which France is among the world’s leaders and which is at the heart of India’s development strategy.
an increased effort by France’s SMEs to make themselves known in India, for which we have a strategic action plan.
7- How do you see the investment climate in India ? Do you feel it is conducive enough or something more needs to be done to make it more open and liberal ?
I am impressed by India’s dynamism, its growing openness to the world, the development of its entrepreneurs and the middle class, its determination to reduce poverty and achieve ambitious human development goals. I am aware of your Prime Minister’s strong and determined will to pursue the modernization of the economy. All this makes India one of the world’s growth locomotives and creates a favourable climate for investors.
There still are areas in which progress is required in everybody’s best interests. In this regard, we are pursuing discussions through the European Union and bilaterally, in order to lift unnecessary barriers to trade and investment in goods and services. I am confident in our ability to find equitable and mutually beneficial solutions that will fully respect India’s sovereign and democratic choices.
8. India and France also have good cooperation in the field of defence. Do you see any scope for growth in this sector ? Please elaborate.
Our defence relations are excellent. We cooperate closely. Our armed forces know and respect each other. We share common strategic concerns, we work together in the Indian Ocean, we develop joint actions in training, exercising, etc.
When it comes to the equipment of the armed forces also we work together very closely, too. France is an important partner of India, as demonstrated through Mirage 2000, helicopters, and the Scorpene submarine project which is being implemented.
India is engaged in an important effort to modernize its armed forces. France is willing to continue to propose its best equipments and to develop cooperations which can include technology transfers and industrial cooperations. Ongoing discussions in several key areas are promising./.