Talk by French Ambassador to India HE Francois Richier
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In his interaction with the VIF faculty on March 26, Ambassador of France to India H E Francois Richier began by identifying the similarities between India and France – above all, the commitment to maintaining strategic autonomy. This did not mean isolation, for no nation could afford to function entirely on its own in this day and age. But it did mean that where their vital interests were involved, they would act with or without external support.

The Ambassador added that India and France were the first strategic partners to each other, and this was a reflection of the close understanding that existed between them, especially in defence cooperation and counter-terrorism. Since the late 1990’s, the two countries had shown understanding of each other’s concerns – France had been pro-active on India’s behalf during the Kargil War, and earlier over the question of sanctions against India after its nuclear tests; in turn, France had enjoyed Indian support during the recent French action in Mali.

The French nuclear doctrine was also quite clear. The nuclear assets were a deterrent, and only to be used in defence of vital interests of the country should deterrence fail. Their doctrine was silent on the issue of first use. A Special Forces contingent was available for overseas deployment – it was now 15000 strong, but used to be 60,000 strong in earlier times. France also had some bases in the Asian and African regions.

There were three types of international crises that particularly concerned France. The first was where the balance of power was being eroded, and could tempt some powers to resort to force. The second was where there would be external interference in another country. And the third was where a country was imploding, and could become a problem for the region around it.

India and France were cooperating over a range of issues, reflecting the strategic nature of their partnership. In the defence field, they were moving to a genuine partnership, away from the buyer-seller relationship that was more typical of the past. Civil nuclear cooperation was another important area – and the Ambassador emphasised that France was quite willing to work within the framework of the Indian law on liability. In France, nuclear power contributed 75% of the electricity generated, compared to India’s 3%. Counter-terrorism was also going well. France had invested a cumulative US$ 19 billion worth in India, and was one of its major trade partners in the EU.

During the Question-&-Answer session that followed, Ambassador Richier touched upon some of the current issues such as Ukraine, Syria, the broader West Asian region, Europe and politics in the light of the coming elections to the European Parliament.

Event Date 
March 26, 2014
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