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On June 6 and 7, Ambassador of France Alexandre Ziegler was on one of his busy bi-monthly visits to Bengaluru, a fast growing industrial and innovation magnet for French interests ranging from space and aeronautics to education. Here, he gives a sense of what could be next in the Indo-French ties that are still flush from French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip in March. Excerpts from the interview:

India and France announced a major space cooperation in March. Could you specify how it pans out?

In the last 50 years, [India and France] have been doing so much together in space and aeronautics. During the visit of President Macron, we signed a new vision document that sets up a very strong partnership for the future. We will be working out the details of it and hopefully be in a position to announce some things in the coming months. Ocean and climate-related satellites, co-development of satellites, launchers, a joint Mars exploration mission — we have a full plate on space for the next decades.

Phase A of the idea of co-developing a constellation of satellites for maritime surveillance between our space agency CNES and ISRO should start as early as next year.

The government has purchased 36 French Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force. At what stage is this contract and what do you see coming after this?

The contract of September 2016 for 36 Rafale aircraft is being implemented. The first delivery is expected [from their manufacturer Dassault Aviation] in September 2019. Before that, pilot training [for the IAF] will start very soon.

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