French envoy stresses on investment in India on eve of President Hollande''s visit

French envoy stresses on investment in India on eve of President Hollande''s visit New Delhi, Feb. 12: France's Ambassador to India, Mr. Francois Richier, today stressed on the importance of French investment in India, saying, according to their calculation, it amounted to more than 17 billion dollars at present.

Speaking on the importance of the upcoming visit of French President Francois Hollande to India during a Panel Discussion on Indo-French Relations at Observer Research Foundation, the Ambassador said though the two countries could not meet the target on trade, set at around 12 billion dollars in 2012 because of various reasons like global slowdown, it is more important that French investments have grown up quite considerably.

He said increasing French investment also played a big role in research and development and scientific cooperation between the two countries.

Noting that this is the new President's first visit to Asia, the Ambassador stressed on three "S"s - sovereignty, stability and synergy in the bilateral relationship of the two countries that has given strength and stability to the relationship.

He pointed out that France and India had signed strategic partnership way back in 1998, as France's leadership foresaw in the last century itself that India would emerge as a big power.

Talking about cooperation in the nuclear area, the Ambassador said France will give six EPR reactors of 60 MW each. After navigating the safety side, now negotiations will move to commercial aspect, he said.

Though the Indian Air Force always had a French aircraft since 1953 - the days of Oregon - the President's visit is unlikely to see signing of any new aircraft deal. The Ambassador said negotiations on Rafale aircraft is "still going" on and it is "moving smoothly". "It is not a surprise" that there won't be any signing of agreement on this, the Ambassador said.

Moderating the event, organised by Observer Research Foundation, Mr. Kanwal Sibal, former Foreign Secretary and former Ambassador to France, said that India-France relationship had withstood great stress when India tested nuclear device in 1998. He noted that France not only didn't impose sanctions but also reacted with great moderation.

Sibal said the President's visit to India would help get personalised attention on India and "it is a good thing".

Noting that India and France have enjoyed special relationship, ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi underlined the need for both countries to remain engaged and invested and further deepen the relationship, taking it to a strategic phase.

Dr. Manoj Joshi, defence and strategic commentator, and Mr. Praveen Swami, chief of The Hindu in Delhi, also spoke of the need to strengthen the relationship. Mr. Joshi spotlighted `deep, long-lasting' Indian purchases of French military planes and helicopters.

Mr. Swami primarily focused on cooperation over the Middle East and Africa. He said that with America's increasing disengagement from the Middle East, the foundations of India's policy toward the region will further erode. Given India and Europe's continued dependence on Middle-East and West and North African energy resources, these countries will need to work together on stability arrangements and military commitments in these regions. (ANI)