Interaction with Mr. Michel Miraillet, Director Strategic Affair, Govt. of France
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As part of what could be described as an exercise in Track 1.5 diplomacy, Mr. Michel Miraillet, Director Strategic Affairs in France’s Ministry of Defence, held wide-ranging and intense interaction with the VIF’s battery of policy experts on March 1, 2012. The visit by Mr. Miraillet ostensibly aimed at finding ways to broaden further the scope for strategic convergence between the two countries. The panel of Indian discussants was led by Mr. Ajit Doval KC, Director VIF and included, among others, Ambassador PP Shukla, Joint Director VIF, Mr. Vijai Kapoor, former Lieutenant Governor Delhi, Ambassador Satish Chandra, formerly Deputy National Security Advisor, Admiral KK Nyaar, a former Vice Chief of the Indian Navy, Shri CD Sahay, a former Secretary R&AW, Lt Gen Ravi Sawhney, a former DG Military Intelligence and, General VN Sharma and General NC Vij, both former chiefs of the Indian Army.

Welcoming Mr. Miraillet to the foundation, Mr. Doval said that India’s strategic partnership with France was based on a solid foundation, appreciating, in particular, the position adopted by France after the nuclear tests were conducted by India in 1998 and its support for India’s permanent membership at the UN Security Council. Painting India’s security scenario with a broad brush, he said that India lived in a dangerous neighbourhood where terrorism, ethnic strife, drug trafficking, sea piracy and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) etc. were posing grave threats to nation states. The ensuing interaction which followed after a detailed presentation by Mr. Miraillet focused on the regional security situation including the broader West Asia region. The importance of close Indo-French understanding and partnership in the face of new emerging situations was the backdrop to a substantive and detailed exchange.

Mr. Miraillet opined that while defence and civil-nuclear agreements as also technology transfers formed the base for both the countries to work together in the future, they also needed to share a common vision of the world. He, however, underlined the fact that unlike in the past when the French perception of India was largely shaped by its commercial and business interests, India is now increasingly viewed as one of the important stakeholders in security. Mr. Miraillet also outlined the Franco-British efforts to consolidate their respective defence capabilities against the background of growing uncertainties in the global economy. Both sides agreed that asymmetries in the defence spending in the region could have consequences that they would need to work together to address. The Indian side emphasized the need for Europe to maintain its arms embargo on supplies to China.

Complexities in the present geo-strategic environment arising mostly from Iran’s nuclear programme, unrest in the Middle East, China’s aggressive posture in the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan’s growing radicalization, the eastward expansion of NATO, the European missile defence, and a resurgent Russia were discussed and debated extensively during the interaction. The Indian interlocutors were of the view that NATO’s apprehensions as regards Russia needed to be re-assessed, as they stemmed from a mindset which existed during the Cold War. In their opinion, Russia could be leveraged effectively to become an important partner in the Eurasian region. China, on the other hand, could end up being a big winner in Afghanistan should the drawdown lead to a situation of a strategic vacuum there, a prospect fraught with serious implications not only for the US but also for the region as a whole.

While agreeing to the fact that there existed perceptional differences in certain areas, both Mr Miraillet and the Indian panelists evinced their keen desire to move forward in the relationship. With investment in the Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy and Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force amounting to approximately USD 25-30 billion and another USD 2 billion a year in maintenance for both over the next twenty years, India certainly is committed to a strategic partnership with France on a long term basis. One of the best ways to narrow down the perceptional differences, where they exist, between the two countries is to carry out sustained dialogues at both the levels of diplomacy - Track I & II. Mr. Doval appreciated Mr. Miraillet for articulating his government’s perceptions on several key issues in a forthright manner.

Report prepared by Sanjay Kumar

Event Date 
March 1, 2012
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