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France supports India’s UNSC membership bid; and her strategic autonomy: French envoy

France’s Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain spoke to India Today TV in an interview and touched upon issues ranging from the Rafale jets to terrorism

France’s Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain spoke to India Today TV in an interview and touched upon issues ranging from the Rafale jets to terrorism and India’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council.

Here are excerpts of the interview:

Q. Rafales participated at the 88th Air Force Day.

A. It was a moment of immense pride. It was an outcome of years of hard work. We are proud that we could deliver on time in spite of Covid-19. That is a commitment that we managed to keep.

Q. How many of the aircraft have been delivered.

A. Everything is being delivered on schedule. When you talk about delivery, 12 of them have been delivered in France in total and five have been ferried to India keeping in mind that as long as they stay in France after delivery, training of pilots and technicians can take place there.

Q. What is the delivery timeline?

A. Total 12 Rafale jets have been delivered right now. 7 are in France and 5 in India. We are on schedule. In all, 36 jets would be delivered.

Q. On strategic partnership between India and France. Where do you see it headed?

A. If you want to achieve such strategic partnership, you need to have total confidence in each other. There is no other country which we trust more and value more than India. We are totally aligned and have the same values.

We have been partners in good and bad times, for e.g. during the 1998 nuclear tests. Not everybody supported India. You (India) were sanctioned by some countries but we never sanctioned India. We are autonomous, independent and we understand what you want to achieve. We have been supporting each other.

During Covid-19, India provided medical aid and support when we needed them. We are willing to reciprocate. My President has decided, as a very strong gesture, to grant 200 million Euros to provide essential services and equipment like testing kits, etc to India.

The first batch of equipment landed in India around the same time when the first five Rafales landed here.

Q. Is the 200 million Euro aid completely for Covid response?

A. Yes. It is for people to access some social service, including points of food delivery system through French Development Assistance. I was very impressed when I visited one of these delivery centres.

Q. On the India-China border tensions, how does France view it?

A. We obviously monitor with great attention what is going on at the border. As you know we always say that differences should be resolved peacefully and we really appreciate and commend India’s efforts.

We do condemn fait accompli policy anywhere in the world. Are we committed to help India in the long term in protecting her autonomy, yes, that is what we are doing in through the defence cooperation and Rafale is an excellent example.

Q. The western front of India is a big worry since Pakistan uses asymmetric warfare. How do you see things proceed at the FATF?

A. Fight against terrorism is something that unites us. India and France are two countries that have been victims of terrorism. We are fighting against terrorism. It is a very important area of cooperation. The fight against terrorism is the fight against financing of terrorism that is why my country organised the ‘No Money For Terror’ conference. And I am glad that India would be hosting the next conference. Hope it will happen soon since it was postponed due to coronavirus.

On FATF, we are really involved in the process as professionally and as efficiently as we can. It is technical work and we should let the specialists make an effective assessment. We don’t see much value in politicising the process. We have to be very strict and technical.

Q. What are your views on India’s UNSC membership and role as non-permanent member for 2021-22?

A. We see India play a major role and we are eager to see more of India in the Security Council. So, you coming for the next two years is great news. Our teams in New York and in the capitals are already working to make the best of your presence. We feel that India belongs to the UN Security Council. India should be made a permanent member. We have been saying that. We have been pushing for that for years.

We feel that if the Council does not include India as a permanent member, it will not reflect the balance of power of the world today. India is a major, responsible power and should be in the UN Security Council.

Q. On the Quad and securing the Indo-Pacific, would France want to be part of an expanded Quad?

A. We have to be very pragmatic. Indo-Pacific is a priority. Both the leaders have been working on that at least for the past four or five years. It is about values. We want an open, transparent Indo-Pacific. Now, what would be the framework. I don’t think anything is exclusive. We have had bilateral cooperation on this front with India for years, military exercise, naval exercise. Sadly, we couldn’t hold it this year because of coronavirus. Next year we will resume.

We are expanding our cooperation with like-minded countries. We are adding trilateral cooperation. We will soon be announcing some new initiatives as well. All like-minded countries should join efforts towards an open, transparent Indo-Pacific.

Q. Would France join the Quad?

A. I don’t think it is a priority right now. Our priority is to come up with concrete outcome, produce results, have ships going through the region, common training, sharing of information. That is what we are doing right now.

We feel like we are part of the Indo-Pacific. We feel that we are India’s neighbour. We have population in the region, we have territory in the region.

Q. On economic cooperation, Supply Chain Resilience.

A. The Covid-19 crisis shed light on some of the dependencies we have. Dependency by itself is not a bad term if it is interdependency between like-minded countries and then there is one-way dependency which you don’t like.

The priority is to be more autonomous and have a strong industrial base and strategic assets. But all that also depends on cooperation with like-minded countries. For e.g. during this crisis, we saw the dependence on the shipment of some key ingredients to make drugs. We should bring back some assembly lines and production facilities in our country is a growing realisation.

We are going to cooperate with countries we have shared interests with and whom we can trust. We have to be more agile, more active and more strategic.

Q. On students wanting to go back to study in France.

A. Our response is very easy, we want more and more and more. Indian students are welcome. They are very positive, bright and dynamic. We feel that that is the best investment we can make for long term benefits. We will do whatever it takes to welcome them. We are the first country to open our borders to Indian students. Our colleges and universities are doing everything possible to welcome the students back by providing safe and good conditions.

Source : India Today

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