France has major interests linked to Indian Ocean territories: Le Drian

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will pay a two-day visit during 17-18 November. The visit comes ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India to attend the International Solar Alliance conference. Excerpts from the interview:

What areas of bilateral cooperation will be the focus for your visit?

India is our foremost strategic partner in Asia and our only strategic partner in South Asia. We have key cooperation in very sensitive areas, such as counter-terrorism, defence, civil nuclear energy, space. In the Indian Ocean, where India occupies a central position and France has major interests linked to its overseas territories, we are in the process of forging a real defence and security partnership. One of the aims of my visit is also to strengthen people-to-people ties, and I will inaugurate Bonjour India, which through more than 300 events spread across India, from November 2017 to February 2018.

Despite India’s efforts, the recent move to designate Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar was blocked at the UN Security Council by China. Your view on this case?

Along with the US and the UK, France had presented a resolution to list Masood Azhar as a terrorist under the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council, which rules on sanctions against terrorists. We had done so because it is clear to us that the head of a terrorist organization should be listed just as the organization itself is. It is deeply regrettable that we could not reach a consensus on such an obvious request for designation. In combating the terrorist threat, regardless of place, there should not be any split in the international community.

One of the issues that have come up in bilateral meetings, including during the visit of Defence Minister Ms. Parly, is a possible second order for Rafale fighters. How confident are you that India will agree to this order?

Our defence cooperation is one of the pillars of our strategic relation. With the Rafale agreement, France and India paved the way for industrial and technological cooperation for the coming fifty years. We would be very happy to support India if it wished to complete its acquisitions, keeping in mind its legitimate desire to possess its own autonomous defence industry. As for competition, the Rafale is a very high-performance and competitive jet, which is a formidable defence apparatus for India that possesses all the assets needed to convince it – as it has already demonstrated the very first time.

In view of exit of the US from Climate Change negotiations, what is the future of the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is irreversible and non-renegotiable. After America announced its decision, President Macron, Prime Minister Modi and the entire international community reaffirmed the relevance of the commitments made in Paris and their resolve to fulfil them. I would like to recall that it particularly helped enshrine important concepts, such as “climate justice”, in the Paris Agreement. Today we share the same priorities: consolidating the Paris Agreement, and making progress in defining the modalities of its implementation, which is the aim of COP23.

Despite an MoU being signed in 2009, the Jaitapur nuclear power project negotiated between Indian and French official has made little progress.

I don’t agree with that. Negotiations have, in fact, advanced well in keeping with the jointly drawn road map.

This project is extremely important for India’s economic development and its fight against climate change. Six EPRs will generate a total capacity of almost 10 GW, thus contributing significantly to India’s goal to produce 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuels by 2030 – in keeping with its commitments announced ahead of the Paris Climate Change Conference. The Jaitapur project will also contribute to Make in India because it involves transfers of production, technology, joint research, training.

As far as the price is concerned, the Indian government took a major decision in early 2015 by reorienting the project to six EPR-type reactors at the same site (instead of 2 + an option for 4 more). This decision will lead to achieving significant economies of scale and help distribute the development costs over six reactors straightaway, which themselves are high-power reactors. This basis ensures the project’s economic viability. It is based on this hypothesis that the discussions between EDF and NPCIL are advancing – and advancing satisfactorily.

By: The Hindu

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