French Defence Minister at VIF
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At the invitation of the Vivekananda International Foundation, the French Defence Minister, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, delivered a talk on 1 December 2014. Welcoming the Guest, VIF Director Gen (Retd) N C Vij briefed the visiting delegation about the current state of affairs between the two countries in the field of defence; nuclear cooperation, counterterrorism and space cooperation. The importance of France as one of India’s most important source for arms import was acknowledged by the director apart from highlighting the ongoing defence and security cooperation between the two countries. He, however, said the low-profile economic ties between the two countries need to be given equal importance as other aspects of the bilateral ties. Emphasising the need to tackle, with collective efforts, extremism and terrorism, he said, the rising force of the Islamic State in West Asia is a major challenge to global peace and stability.

The French Defence minister thanked the VIF and mentioned about the kind of responses the publications from the Foundation are receiving in Paris. He dwelt the strategic relations between India and France, and the continuity in their political ties since many years. He concentrated his discourse on the issue of terrorism that is being tackled by France and how his country is fighting this dreaded phenomenon. According to him, the issue of terrorism is not at all a new phenomenon in France, and it had begun since the 1970s and 1980s. The emergence of left-wing extremists groups in his country was highlighted during his talk. He also talked about the change in the tactics of the terror groups after the ill-fated September 11 attack in New York in 2001. This incident had ushered in, what the minister termed as “hyper terrorism”. There is a major concern about the proliferation of weapons systems into the hands of the terrorist groups. The role of French troops inside Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda since October 2001 was also mentioned.

Pointing out that a large number of foreign jihadists were fighting for the IS, the visiting dignitary said this was a serious matter which needs to be tackled on priority. He said France’s role in the military intervention in West Asia is mainly to preserve the safety of the region, and that of its allies. A detailed explanation about the evolution of the IS was given by Mr. Le Drian, and it gave a clear picture as to how this terror group came into prominence. The anti-West and anti-Shia stance were also explained. Other issues discussed, with regard to IS, included its source of funding; influx of foreign jihadists, and the roles played by France, namely, airstrikes, training of troops, and logistical support. Its role in training Kurdish Peshmerga troops and related military advises given were highlighted. According to the minister, military operations are not adequate to tackle the crisis but there is the need to reconstruct the national identities in Iraq. One of the most important challenges while fighting the Islamic State is its trans-frontier nature.

The latter part of the minister’s talk focused on the role of French troops in fighting terrorism inside the tiny African country, Mali. While doing this, he focused amply on the counterterrorism measures in the Sahel region.

The minister acknowledged the issue of terrorism faced by India, particularly from outfits such Laskkar-e-Taiba, and how this threat emanated from the neighbourhood. The minister said Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism was not helpful. He expressed willingness to fight against terrorism with any partners, including India. He also said that France would remain in Sahel as long as its partners need it, and his country would continue to fight the IS. Towards the end of his talk, the minister reminded the audience that the issue of terrorism, be it anywhere, has to be solved through a political solution, including the ongoing crisis in Syria under the rule of Bashar al-Assad. Local forces must be included to fight the terror groups. Keeping in mind these developments, according to the minister, it should be in the interest of India and France to cooperate further in military-security affairs and uniting their efforts in fighting terrorism provides one of the best incentives to carry forward the ties.

Event Date 
December 1, 2014
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