Visit of Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Defence
At the invitation of the Hon’ble Minister of Defence, Shri A.K Antony, the French Minister of Defence, H.E. Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, paid his second visit to India, from 25th to 27th July, 2013, with stops in Delhi and Gwalior.
This visit was follow-up of the State visit of the President of the French Republic, H.E. Mr François Hollande, in February 2013, and was an opportunity to demonstrate the importance France attaches to partnering with India, and with its armed forces.
On 26th July, after laying a wreath at the “Amar Jawan Jyoti”, Mr Le Drian met Shri A.K. Antony to discuss matters of bilateral interest. They continued these talks over an official dinner hosted by his Indian counterpart, where the Minister met top Army, Navy, Air Force and coast guards officers.
At the invitation of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Minister Le Drian presented the French White Paper on Defence and National Security, released in April 2013 by President Hollande, and delivered a lecture on “Indo-French Defence Partnership: the Choice of Strategic Autonomy”.
During this visit, Minister Le Drian also met industrialists of the defence sector, members of the French community, and exchanged views on global threats and current international issues with high-profile Indian researchers and scholars, as well as Members of Parliament.
On 27th July, he visited the Indian Air Force museum in Pallam. He was shown the first two French fighters aircraft used by the IAF, namely, the Dassault Ouragan, also known as ’Toofani’, acquired in 1953, and the Dassault Mystere IV. Both types were used with great success in the 1965 war. This visit was a testimony to 60 years of uninterrupted cooperation and unflinching support by French in the field of military aircraft.
Then, he flew to the Air Force Station, Gwalior, where he was welcomed by Air Marshall R.Rai, from Central Air Command Allahabad, and Commodore P.M. Sinha, the Station commander. The Minister received an extensive briefing on the history of the Air Force Station, on the Mirage 2000 squadrons and their contribution to India’s security in particular during the Kargil War and the Tiger Hill Battle. The first two Mirage 2000 are being upgraded in France.
He toured the flight line as well as the maintenance hangars and witnessed a Mirage 2000 fly past. The Minister praised the bravery, competence and dedication of pilots and technicians of IAF, and reiterated France’s commitment to boosting Indo-French Defence ties, including exchange of pilots, training and joint exercises, such as Garuda, planned to take place in India in 2014.
He also recalled the historical lies between the royal family of Gwalior and France, dating back to the 18th century, and the role played by French officers in the army of the Scindias.
The visit was followed by a private by a private tour to the Jai Vilas Mahal museum, where he was welcomed by Yashodara Raje Scindia, Hon’ble Member of Parliament and the Director of the museum. He thereafter toured the Gwalior fort.
France and India enjoy an exceptionally warm relationship, which is the fruit of deep affinities and the unwavering trust between our two countries. An intense cooperation was established in areas as sensitive as defence, security and nuclear energy under the strategic partnership signed in 1998. Moreover, French companies are among the topmost investors in India: with a consolidated stock of more than 18 billion dollars in 2013, French companies are present all over India with corporate headquarters, production units, as well as important research and development or innovation centres, in a wide range of sectors. More investments are expected soon.
During his visit in February 2013, President François Hollande devoted his first State visit in Asia to India. This event epitomised the importance he attached to both the strategic partnership between France and India and the economic and cultural/education relations between the two countries. The French authorities were most touched by the heartfelt words of the Indian authorities, President Pranab Mukherjee regarding France as “one of India’s oldest, closest and most reliable partners”.
Cooperation between France and India is indeed a longstanding one. In aerospace, from the Toofan supplied in 1953, the Mystère IV, the naval Alizé, the Jaguar manufactured under license by HAL, to the Mirage 2000, the relationship between India and France has proven its robustness and longevity for more than half a century. French aircraft has contributed proudly to India’s defence. Other defence sectors also have deep roots: missiles, helicopters, submarines, high end defence technology, and a range of promising cooperation and co-development of new weapons systems can be foreseen for the future, and will trigger unprecedented levels of technological and industrial cooperation. It will cement our defence relationship for the decades to come. France and India co-develop major weapons systems and, over the years, we have moved from a commercial relation to co-development and co-production, with transfer of technology.
The national security strategy will help France to ward off risks and threats, direct or indirect, likely to endanger the life of the nation. This concept, introduced by the 2008 White Paper and enshrined in law in 2009, has been confirmed. It is grounded in recognising the continuity of the internal and external threats menacing France, its territory, population and security interests. It enables France to assess all the different dimensions of these threats and organise its response to them. Deterrence and military interventions are two cornerstones of our strategy.
The level of threat and the climate of uncertainty characterising our international environment since 2008 have not diminished. Our analysis must now take three phenomena into consideration: threats related to power, risks related to weakness, threats and risks intensified by globalisation.
The White Paper clearly sets forth the strategic priorities resulting from our duty to protect French citizens, on the one hand, and assume our international responsibilities, on the other: protecting the national territory and French nationals abroad; guaranteeing the security of Europe and the North Atlantic space, with our partners and allies; stabilising Europe’s near environment, with our partners and allies; and contributing to peace and international security in the world, including Africa, Middle East, Indian Ocean, and beyond.
Capitalising both on France’s full engagement in NATO and the pragmatic revitalisation of the European defence policy, the White Paper remodels general strategy and military strategy to build a new armed forces model, with a specific emphasis on cyber defence and intelligence.