Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s visit to France (July 14, 2023)

July 15, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining us here in Paris. As Prime Minister winds down on his historic visit to France as the chief guest or guest of honour at the Bastille Day celebrations, to give us a sense of the visit; the last elements are still ongoing, we have Foreign Secretary Sir Shri Vinay Kwatra. Also joining us on the dais Shri Sandeep Chakraborty, Joint Secretary Europe-West in the Ministry of External Affairs. We are tight on time, so I'll hand over the floor to you Sir to give us a sense of where we are.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much, Arindam, Joint Secretary Sandeep, friends from the media, very good evening. To share a sense of Honourable Prime Minister’s, as Arindam said, historic, still ongoing visit to France; Since we are kind of running a bit late on schedule in terms of when Prime Minister has (inaudible) later in the evening, I thought I'll quickly give a brief overview of the programming elements of the Honourable Prime Minister's historic visit to France, as also share with you a sense of major substantive outcomes that we have been able to achieve during this visit.

First, actually fully packed two days of intense engagements right from arrival. Arrival, as you all know, is yesterday afternoon. Three major engagements yesterday – the Senate Chair, the Honourable Prime Minister of France, later on address to the community. Many of you were there and you also saw the sense of vibrancy, enthusiasm, and just the general atmosphere at La Seine Musical yesterday evening. And to cap the day off yesterday, a private dinner by President Macron for Honourable Prime Minister. Those were four key engagements yesterday.

Today morning, Bastille Day, the Grand National Day celebrations of France. Honourable Prime Minister was there alongside, as you all saw, a tri-service contingent from India participated in the Bastille Day parade. Followed by meeting with the President of the National Assembly of France. Thereafter, detailed discussions with President Macron at Élysée Palace, both in the restricted format and the delegation format. And even as we speak now, the CEO forum proceedings are, I am told, just got over. So they would soon be returning from there and we have a fantastic state banquet coming up later this evening, again in honour of Honourable Prime Minister.

So you can clearly see in over what must be just roughly 36 hours or so, intense schedule of engagements for Prime Minister here. The second set of things which I would categorize would be some of the rare honours that were accorded to the Honourable Prime Minister during this visit. The Prime Minister of France received Prime Minister Modi at the airport. Not a very common thing that you would see. A rare honour actually accorded. Yesterday, the award of Légion d'honneur, la grand-croix, the highest award of France given to Honourable Prime Minister. Chief guest at Bastille Day celebrations earlier today, another honour. State dinner later on, which will be in honour of Prime Minister. I am told that Honourable Prime Minister is the first Indian after the independence of India to receive Légion d'honneur, la grand-croix. So a set of great honours accorded to the Honourable Prime Minister, to India during this visit, ongoing visit of Prime Minister.

Third, I would put them in the category of, and you all saw many of the visuals clearly pointed to that, exceptional warmth, warmth of the sentiment, warmth of the friendship and genuineness also at the same time. The extent of time that President Macron is continuing to spend with Prime Minister, almost 36 hours, is actually really, really exceptional. Reflects a sense of comfort with each other, genuine friendship, mutual trust of course, which in a way is also reflective of the state of India - France, I would say, friendship across range of areas. Also captures shared understanding, I think, between the two countries and it's a great camaraderie between the President and Prime Minister and as I said, you could easily sense that from the visuals that you would have seen.

Fourth, I would put in the category of the outcomes that we have been able to achieve during this visit. As you all know, we are celebrating the 25th year anniversary of India-France Strategic Partnership. The 25 years of our Strategic Partnership have a strength of very strong achievements in the last 25 years. This visit has taken that as a base and has, I would say, even built an edifice of India-France cooperation to come in the next 25 years. So it is, again, perhaps for the first time, we can do a little bit of fact check subsequently, but my sense is this is for the first time that India has chalked out a Horizon 2047 framework of partnership with any country in the world, which India and France today concluded. I think the document should be out, if not out, it would be put out shortly for you to peruse yourself and see what it contains in terms of not just aspirations that the two countries think that the relationship can touch, but also has very specific substance to it which this relationship will be filled with.

If I was to give you a very quick run of that and mention… So the document Horizon 2047, a vision of the two leaders, of Prime Minister Modi and President Macron, on where the relationship should be in 2047 when India would celebrate 100th year of its independence and we will be celebrating 50 years of our Strategic Partnership. It has, on a very broad rough count, 63 specific outcomes that we are looking at. Now these 63 outcomes are divided among multiple pillars. You will see this when the document comes out yourself, but I will list out for you the major headings. The first is the partnership for security and sovereignty. It takes a very, I would say, comprehensive approach to how India and France would approach their partnership in the space of security and sovereignty. It doesn't look at individual transactions, it doesn't even look at individual segments of it, but it looks at security in the widest possible perspective, reduces it into what specific things could be achieved by the two countries.

The second bucket within the Horizon talks of India-France partnership in the wider space of Indo-Pacific. So that looks at that Indo-Pacific space more in terms of providing solutions, not just solutions aimed at the security or strategic challenges, but also the economic challenges that we face. So Indo-Pacific, an area of stability and sustainable development, that's the second pillar on the Horizon. The third, space, domain of space, which is at the center of our partnership. Fourth, something which also came up very strongly in the discussions between the two leaders earlier today, is our cooperation in fight against terrorism. Fifth, commitment, shared commitment to promote renewed and effective multilateralism. Sixth, and this is one pillar which has several other crucial sub-segments and this is a space relating to science, technology and academic cooperation between research institutions, between the two countries, which then again breaks itself down into scientific cooperation, critical technologies, health cooperation, cyber cooperation, digital regulatory framework engagements, digital technologies specifically etc. etc. We then have a major segment which is categorized under partnership of planet. As the name would suggest, that includes, that has a heavy focus on energy related elements, energy transition, energy research and development and of course the challenge of climate change. Also the trinity of climate change, biodiversity, biodiversity loss and pollution. There is a strong focus in this on urban and ecological transitions in both our societies and how we can partner together to look at research-based, technology-based solutions that we can both make use of, not just for the benefit of our own societies but also extended to other countries. Then there is a segment which is a global area of importance on sustainable growth and transition to low carbon energy. The document also then moves to one of the central pillars of our relationship which is the people-to-people ties. So that segment is focused on partnership for the people. There, given the global changes that are taking place in the, I would say, skill set configuration of different societies, the rapid transitions that are taking place, that a rapid transition that would be required, adjustments that would be needed, mobility that it would take to meet those challenges. That segment focuses on mobility partnership, skill-set cooperation, how do we dovetail our academic cooperation which tries to meet those needs of mobility and skill-set development and then combine these two and to ensure mobility, how do we maybe look at a more conducive visa regime for people to move and naturally, since mobility will expand the presence and spread of people, India would also be opening a new Consulate in the city of Marseille that the Honourable Prime Minister announced earlier today. A critical segment of this, important segment of this, in which both India and France have a robust complementarity, I should say, which is the field of cooperation in archaeology and museology, a great strength of France, a great aspiration of ours, of India, of Prime Minister, to build a large ecosystem of institutions that devote themselves to museology and to the archaeological conservation and France is among our strongest of knowledge partners in that space. So these are roughly 7 to 8 broad segments of the Horizon 2047 and if you will go through this document you will find there are roughly 60 or 60 plus, very specific things. So it is 30,000 feet, at the same time it is also very grounded in terms of what the two countries, the two systems can do. This captures really the essence of the vision of the two leaders which they see the relationship achieving in years ahead. I will not go into the specifics of each of these areas but if there are sort of questions on that I would be very happy to speak about that.

But since just one or two key things to flag because this is something which is receiving global attention right now, which is a very strong priority for my Prime Minister in India, but it is also an area of very strong focus in France, which is to combat single use plastic pollution, pollution caused by the use of single use plastics. We have during this visit arrived at a joint commitment both India and France to combat this challenge, take steps which would hopefully contribute to the global efforts in a strong way to eliminate and to address this challenge. Naturally this has a global dimension, international dimension, but it also has a strong cooperative element bilaterally that can be pursued. Besides this, in terms of if we were to zoom in into the specific key strategic elements of the relationship in Horizon 2047, we also have a roadmap for India-France partnership in the Indo-Pacific, which as I said focuses entirely on a set of collaborative engagements that India and France could undertake in the entire geography of Indo-Pacific moving forward. So all in all an unprecedentedly successful visit with great and rare honours being bestowed on the Honourable Prime Minister, with achievements and successes which will guide our relationship in the next 25 years, period of what Prime Minister says Amritkaal, which the whole country believes in, and this is also would be the further strengthening of the Strategic Partnership in the next 25 years ahead of us. I would stop here and if there are questions we will try and take them, thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much sir, we have a bit of a tight timeline on questions. I will take them in a group perhaps. Ground rules, please introduce yourself and the organization that you represent.

Gaurav Sawant: Sir, my name is Gaurav Sawant, I work for India Today and Aaj Tak. Sir, on specifics on Rafale Marines, is there forward movement on that, fighter jet, engine manufacturing, co-manufacturing, co-development, is there a forward movement on that, on helicopter engines and scorpion submarines?

Daphné Benoit: Yes, hi, Daphné Benoit from AFP Agence France-Presse. I have two small questions, one to follow up on my colleague’s. One, can you give us a sense of when you precisely expect to turn this intent into a firm order of Rafale and Scorpion, and second, Mr. Macron and Mr. Modi don't necessarily share the same views on Russia regarding Ukraine, however, they are both committed, they said, to be able to reach a sustainable peace at some point, and your Prime Minister said that he's very much committed to contribute to reaching a sustainable peace. Has there been any discussion on what it could, how it could materialize on the Indian side to contribute maybe talks with Russia or whatnot? Thank you.

Vishnu Som: Good evening, sir, Vishnu Som from NDTV. So jet engine technology, I notice, has come up in the strategic document. Could you share some details with us? What exactly does that entail? And would that mean a significant transfer of technology, including single-crystal engine aerofoil technology? Thank you, sir.

Sidhant: Sir, Sidhant from WION, there was a specific document on Indo-Pacific. What kind of convergences both countries are looking when it comes to Indo-Pacific deliverable convergences? And also, there is a very aggressive China as well. Was this part of conversation between the two leaders?

Bruno Philip: Good evening. Bruno Philip from Le Monde. Now France has now become the second supplier of weapons to India. You're still dependent, I believe, on about 50% of your armaments from Russia. Do you think, ultimately, the goal would be to distance yourself from Russia in terms of dependency on weapons? I mean, in other words, to become less dependent on Russia. Thank you.

Ashish: This is Ashish from ABP News. Sir, I just saw the Horizon 2047 document that has just been released. I have a little fine-tuned question to what has already been asked, sir. There was no mention of Rafale Marine. There are mentions of engines and the detail as far as the Scorpion submarines are concerned. But no mention of Rafale Marine at all. Was this not discussed at all, this one? And a follow-up question, sir, specifically the third countries' support, are we looking at some specific region or the countries as far as the Indian Ocean or Indo-Pacific area is concerned?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Your question is to that joint statement or something in the Horizon?

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: In a way, you have answered Mr. Som's question. Is that what you're saying? But anyway…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I hand over the floor to you, sir.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Okay. Thank you very much. Look, you know, let me just first capture the entire set of questions, queries, interests that are there in the field of defense. If you look at the 2047 Horizon document, and where does that…the reference is to defense cooperation and the security cooperation, I mentioned in my remarks that the document looks at security and sovereignty in a more holistic and a comprehensive manner rather than as a set of individual transaction. And why is that? And the reason for that is because the metrics of defense partnership is not defined by a single acquisition or a non-acquisition, single procurement, or a single transaction. The nature of India-France Strategic Partnership, I should say, looks at all elements of our engagement. So the document, for example, I mean, if I was to really quote here, it talks of the two countries, India and France, committed to cooperating on – I'll just put "co-development and co-production of advanced defense technologies”, and you yourself referred, including for the benefit of third countries. It also talks of India's intent to build its own defense industrial and technological base. This is a vision document which we're working on. But if you were to look at its underpinnings, the underpinnings and the specifics of our defense partnership, you will find that for the last large number of years, the two countries have been talking, have been actually undertaking technology partnerships in the field of defense. It is perhaps a very natural media interest to focus on one or two items. But from our perspective, we look at our defense relationship in a very comprehensive manner, which looks at – if you want me to really list out the ecosystem of defense engagement between the two countries, and I know there are a couple of you in the room who follow defense very closely, you will find an entire range of, full range actually, of military exercises between the armed forces. In terms of the military industrial cooperation, research, design, transfer of technology, in some cases, co-production, co-manufacturing, increasingly something which we definitely would want to focus on in years ahead, supply chain integration in the manufacturing ecosystem in the field of defense between the two countries. I would even say technology value chain integrations going forward between the two countries. And all this – I will not go into details of helicopter engines or aero engines or any other aspects, but you will find a lot of these captured in the larger rubric of advance defense technologies. And we in India and Prime Minister is very clear that a lot of these things have to link into the priority of Atmanirbhar Bharat that we all believe in. So I would suggest, submit, that we look at India-France security partnership from the rubric and from the frame of reference, which is comprehensive, which is strategic in nature, which looks ahead – looks ahead on what we can do in the entire ecosystem of defense and not just limit itself to one or two issues.

With regard to the question – your second question, I'm on the Russia-Ukraine issue. The Honourable Prime Minister and the President, whenever they have met even on previous occasions, have focused always on issues of regional and global development. And naturally, Russia-Ukraine conflict is a matter which has always been – has mostly been discussed between the two leaders whenever they've spoken. In today's discussions between the two leaders, what I would say is that one, there is a very clear understanding and appreciation of each other's position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. You would all also know that my Prime Minister, Prime Minister Modi, has been perhaps the strongest advocate of resolving the Russia-Ukraine conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. If I understand and if I scan the global pronouncements on the subject, you will find that my Prime Minister is, again, perhaps the only leader who has openly said that this is not the era of war. Now, obviously, this points to a certain basic intent of our Prime Minister and of India, which is intent for peace. So when the two leaders meet, like they met earlier today and yesterday also, they discussed at length what the current status is of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But from our perspective – and I think this has been greatly appreciated by the French side also – they also discussed what the impact of this conflict is on the developing countries, the challenges, the exacerbating challenges of food security, the growing uncertainty that it creates for the energy security, rapid increase in fertilizer security challenges, which can translate into food security challenges of tomorrow in that sense. So all these things came up for a comprehensive conversation between the two leaders and they shared their perspective. And as I said, there is a very clear appreciation, understanding, and recognition of each other's position on where the conflict is right now and what their perspective on that is.

Sidhant, your question on the Indo-Pacific document, what are the convergences between the two countries? Look, it's an area where actually if you go back to – I think it was 2018, yeah. If you go back to 2018, India and France in 2018 came out with a vision document on cooperation principally focused on the Indian Ocean region. Again, a document which looks at the partnership in a very comprehensive way, not in a way very segmented and a differentiated way in which you single out one or two elements to the exclusion of others, not at all. Same is the case with the document on Indo-Pacific roadmap. It looks at a full set of challenges that are there in the Indo-Pacific geography. Two, also looks at, assesses actually, what India and France are already doing, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. Three, what more can they do to expand that cooperation and take it to the countries of the Indo-Pacific, including in this case you will find in the document some island countries in the Pacific are also listed. As you know, Prime Minister Modi was in Papua New Guinea not so long ago, just very recently. And the clear sense that we received during that summit meeting where Prime Minister Modi met with the 14 countries of the Pacific Island country was a very strong preference for development partnership with India. They saw in India and in Prime Minister Modi, one, a reliable leader, a trusted leader and a country whose development model is not, does not cause a structural debt burden on their societies. A model that is very transparent for everybody to look at, is demand driven, driven more by the demands. All those elements are captured in this Indo-Pacific Roadmap also. The challenge of climate change, rising sea levels, environmental issues, again, one of the areas which is mentioned in the Indo-Pacific Roadmap. Strategic challenges that the countries of Indo-Pacific face, what India and France can do together to move in that, another area. A fourth area, which is not just specific to Indo-Pacific, but maybe I'll leverage your question to expand into that a bit, is the question of digital cooperation, not just between India and France, but also between how India and France can bring together their capacities to help countries of the Indo-Pacific. It's also a very important part of the Horizon 2047 document. As you would have all heard Honourable Prime Minister speak at the presser earlier today, he said that UPI, for example, has arrived at an understanding through which the interface between the UPI-based payment models and the French ecosystem of payment modalities will be able to talk to each other technically, technologically really, and be able to effect those payments. So not just the open source element of it, but a large, extensive, tested out, digital public infrastructure model that India brings to the table is a huge value proposition, and I wouldn't say value proposition only for the developing countries. I think it's as much a value proposition for any partner of India, and including France in this case. So you have a comprehensive set of things that the roadmap finalized by Prime Minister Modi and President Macron lists out in terms of its outcomes.

I think in some ways, to your question on France being the second supplier and, you know, 60% dependence, etc., I think in a way I have already, you know, answered that question, which is captured at least in the frame of our bilateral partnership between India and France in the document, but separately, all our partnerships, Strategic Partnerships elsewhere, you would have closely followed, I am sure, Prime Minister's really unprecedentedly successful visit to the U.S. very recently, and you would have seen that it has a very strong component of technology-based defense cooperation going. Now, obviously, you know, this is all aimed at the priorities which Prime Minister Modi has laid out for India in terms of building its own capabilities to be able to respond to its need.

Was China discussed, etc.? Look, as I mentioned, you know, the challenges which the world as a whole faces in terms of the strategic challenges in different parts of the world, it is very natural when the two leaders meet to speak about those challenges, but also speak more about their own cooperation in going forward and strengthening their own capacities to address the evolving nature of many of these challenges that come up all over the world. In that context, the developments in the Indian Ocean region, Indo-Pacific, you know, speaks about some of them. These questions did come up between the two leaders, and as I said, the focus of the conversation between the two leaders, and they are going to spend some more time later this evening also, was on really to look at how do we shape, mould, build India-France, a very successful partnership into, as I said, the total next 25 years of a transformation in the partnership so that when we hit the century of Indian independence and half a century of India-France Strategic Partnership, we can look back at it with great satisfaction in terms of what we set out to achieve and indeed in the end what we did successfully achieve. I would have to, I am afraid, stop here because Prime Minister is departing and I need to catch the carcade.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, sir. Thanks also for your time.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Sandeep Chakraborty for being here. Thank you all for joining us here. Prime Minister will now leave later in the evening today. Thank you. Bye.


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