Mercredi 21 Août 2019  

N°83 - Troisième trimestre 2008

La lettre diplometque
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  Le marché boursier en Inde : de l’émancipation à l’expansion sous le signe de l’esprit d’entreprise
  Le développement du réseau ferroviaire : une priorité du gouvernement indien
  La santé, un enjeu crucial pour l’Inde et un axe de la coopération franco-indienne appelée à s’intensifier
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  L’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient à Pondichéry
  La Maison de l’Inde célèbre son 40ème anniversaire
  Défense et armement : une coopération franco-indienne ancienne et promise à un bel avenir
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  S.E.M. / H.E. Ranjan Mathai

The Franco-Indian Partnership Gears Up to Meet 21st Century Challenges

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to France on 29 September 2008 shifted bilateral relations into a new gear, with a strengthened partnership targeting strategic fields such as nuclear energy, outer space, defense and education. The Ambassador of India to France, H.E. Ranjan Mathai, tells our readers how new cooperation accords are helping bolster Indo-European ties.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid an official visite to Paris this fall, in a follow-up to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s state visit to India on 24-27 January 2008. How would you describe the new impetus gave by this visit to the strategic partnership launched between our two countries in 1998?

H.E. Ranjan Mahai: The Prime Minister of India was in France on September 29-30 - first in Marseille for the EU-India Summit and then in Paris for a bilateral summit. This visit and the interactions with the President of France ensured the continuation of our privileged dialogue to further the strategic partnership between our two countries. We have been cooperating in a number of substantial fields and have regular exchange of views on major global issues and regional affairs. We would be carrying forward our bilateral cooperation in fields such as defence, space, energy including civilian nuclear energy, and science and technology.

T.D.L.: The last EU-India Summit has been held on September 29th, during the French presidency of the Council of the European Union. Will it help open up new opportunities for strengthening the New Delhi-Brussels partnership, in fields such as trade, energy and political dialogue?

H.E.R.M.: The Summit held on September 29 is an important milestone in India’s relationship with the EU. The EU is one of India’s most important trading partners with whom we have extensive dialogue on a wide range of issues. We expect to make progress towards a new broad based trade and investment agreement, new schemes for educational and cultural exchanges and a Joint Work Program on energy. In education, greater progress can be made if some rules are liberalized and made cohesive. Indian students coming to Europe find they are unable to participate in EU sponsored courses which involve visiting more than one country because visa regulations are not the same in all EU countries.

T.D.L.: France has said it wants to double bilateral trade with India to 12 billion euros by the year 2010. In which sectors of the Indian market would your country like to see French companies play a more active role, in addition to the railway industry? What kind of cooperation synergies would India like to forge with France to foster technology transfer and training in fields such as education, health and scientific research?

H.E.R.M.: During President Sarkozy’s visit to India in January, it was agreed to target a doubling of bilateral trade to 12 billion euros by 2012. Our trade is growing at over 25% per year and the target is achievable ; we could perhaps aim for even more.
French companies have been actively bidding to take up new opportunities in India’s railway sector ; new plants for wagons, engines and other rolling stock are to be set up in the next few years. French companies could also play a role in modernization of railway stations and in consultancy for introduction of high speed rail services in our country.
Both India and France are committed to increasing cooperation synergies in education, scientific research and health. We have an Indo-French Centre for Promotion of Advanced Research which has supported 400 collaborations in research, workshops, exchanges etc., and additional programs are being planned. An Indo-French Consortium of Universities is being set up which will increase cooperative ventures in higher education. The Indian Council for Medical Research and its French counterpart INSERM are working on new initiatives for cooperation in areas such as neurology, vaccines etc.
We expect that education, scientific research and culture will be among the most important areas of our interaction in the years to come, and they will create long lasting relationships between the people of the two countries.

T.D.L.: Bolstered by its great skill in labor-intensive sectors, the Indian economy has posted an average annual growth rate of over 8% for the past five years. What is the government doing to shore up India’s position as a new international research and development pole? With your country refusing to adhere to greenhouse gas emission limits, how is its industrialization strategy addressing the need for sustainable development?

H.E.R.M.: The India growth story over the last decades has been inspiring. Since 2005, a rate of growth of over 8% has been maintained, and as you have guessed this has created new human resource demands. The Government set up a Knowledge Commission which has identified the needs of the manufacturing sector; it has highlighted the fact that the services sector is by definition knowledge intensive.
The Government clearly recognizes education and health as high priority areas for the future. The resources allocated to education have been substantially increased over the last five years and are being used for both basic, primary education and institutes of higher learning and research. In the 2008 budget of the Government of India, over Euros 6 billion is allocated to education. The individual State governments have separate allocations for education. Knowledge will drive success in the 21st Century, and hence the commitment to educational expansion, R&D etc., will go up further over the next five years with investments from both public and private sources.
Regarding your second question, India has adhered to commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and other international agreements, such as that reached in Bali. The Prime Minister has also made the commitment that our per capita emissions will never exceed those of the developed world. For us in India, eradication of poverty through rapid development remains the urgent national priority. We do nevertheless recognize the need for sustainability. We have adopted a National Action Plan on Climate Change. India has had longstanding government schemes for renewable energies and we are one of the world’s largest producers of wind energy. We believe there is greater need for international cooperation to ensure funding and transfer of technology for new energy sources and low carbon industrial technology and processes. The international community did take special measures to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis ; a similar approach is necessary on the transition to a new energy era.

T.D.L.: The development of rural areas has been a great challenge for India, with the agricultural sector employing over 50% of the active labor force but generating only 20% of GDP. The new finance act put forward in February 2008 focuses on rural development. Could you describe some of the steps being taken to solve the “countryside crisis,” exemplified by the over-indebtedness of small farmers and growing development disparities?

H.E.R.M.: India’s food production has increased substantially during the current decade. Yet it is true that agricultural growth has indeed lagged behind industry and services in India. This has created difficulties which are being addressed by the government. Agricultural credit is being increased by Regional Rural Banks and public sector banks and crop insurance schemes are being implemented. New irrigation projects are being developed and diversification of crops, horticulture, and dairying are being encouraged. A massive relief scheme to write off debts of small farmers at a cost of over 12 billion Euros is in progress. In the long run there is a need to generate new non-agricultural employment in rural areas. A National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was launched last year and is now being extended to all 596 rural districts of the country. The “Bharat Nirman” Scheme is generating new roads, electrical lines and telecommunication linkages along with drinking water and other amenities.

T.D.L.: India was the leader of the so-called “southern” countries during the WTO talks on the liberalization of world trade, which broke down in July 2008. How do you answer criticism that developing countries have closed off their markets? Conversely, how do you respond to the stance taken by the big agriculture-producing countries?

H.E.R.M.: I was India’s Ambassador in Doha in 2001 when the Doha Multilateral Trade Negotiations were launched as primarily a “development round”. By definition, to fulfill the central mandate given by Ministers at Doha in 2001, the WTO Doha Round would have to take into account the development concerns of developing countries. Sixty percent of India’s population lives in rural areas and the livelihood security of its farmers is a primordial objective. It is against this background that India took the position it did in the agricultural negotiations in Geneva. We are proud that this stance was supported by about 100 other developing countries.
India has not closed its market to export of agricultural commodities by the developed countries. The disagreement at the WTO negotiations was over the level at which additional imports could permit protective measures to be put in place. In India, this could mark the difference between life and death. It would, therefore, be wrong and unfair to compare the plight of Indian farmers with the position of subsidized agribusiness in developed countries.
India remains committed to the conclusion of the Doha Round of Multilateral Trade negotiations. But to be successful, it must fulfill its original mandate of being a genuine “development round”.

T.D.L.: India, which imports 70% of its oil, is looking for ways to diversify its energy sources to sustain the momentum of its growing economy. Will the hotly debated Indo-U.S. Civilian Nuclear Accord help do this? Does it signal a new direction in relations between the two countries?

H.E.R.M.: Like all major economies, India needs a broad range of energy sources. Nuclear energy is increasingly being recognized as a major source of energy which is compatible with requirements of limiting carbon emissions and sustainability. India has developed on its own the capabilities for harnessing nuclear energy for electric power generation, and plans to use its vast thorium resources in the future. The agreement with the US is a critical step in enhancing our capabilities to develop this energy source. India’s economy, growing at over 8% a year, will need 30,000 to 40,000 MW of power from nuclear sources by 2030. This will require greater collaboration with foreign partners. The recent decision of NSG to permit nuclear trade with India will make it possible to start cooperation with a number of countries, including France.

T.D.L.: In July 2008, New Delhi and Islamabad began their 5th round of talks, after renewing their dialogue in 2004. Has there been any headway on the issue of Kashmir? Despite the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on 7 July 2008, what can your country do to support those working for peace in both countries?

H.E.R.M.: As you have said, a new round in the Composite Dialogue between India and Pakistan began in July 2008. The dialogue is scheduled to cover political, economic, cultural and other fields. So it is of importance for a stable and constructive relationship. The process of improving relations between our countries rests on 3 pillars: one is the absence of violence ; the commitment which Pakistan made in January 2004 not to permit territory under its control for being used for terrorism against India is crucial. The second is negotiations on all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir, and the third is to build a cooperative relationship.
The heinous attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, and recurrence of cross border infiltration in Kashmir are obviously of great concern. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had frank discussions with the Prime Minister of Pakistan in Colombo on 2 August 2008. Both Prime Ministers expressed the determination that we need to overcome these developments and move back on the track of improving relations.

T.D.L.: Your country has wrestled with the scourge of terrorism for many years, as witnessed once again by the blast that ripped through Ahmedabad on 27 July 2008. Can you tell us a little about the terrorist attacks plaguing your country? Could closer regional cooperation help tackle this problem?

H.E.R.M.: The attacks in Gujarat in August and in Delhi more recently demonstrate that India is one of the greatest victims of terrorism, including terrorism inspired from outside the country. We believe that there is no justification for terrorism and all acts of terrorism must be judged by a common standard of rejection. We believe that there is a need for an international understanding against terrorism and international cooperation to tackle it. At the recent SAARC Summit in Colombo, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged that South Asia must act jointly and with determination to combat the scourge of terrorism.

T.D.L.: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held its 15th Summit in Sri Lanka from 27 July to 8 August 2008. What priorities would you like to see at the top of the regional cooperation agenda? Could you describe the geopolitical stakes and advantages of bringing Afghanistan into the organization? What can India do to help allay tensions in this country?

H.E.R.M.: I have already referred to our PM’s call for SAARC to unite against the menace of terrorism. This has to be seen in the context of India’s desire to see greater economic integration and cooperation to enable SAARC to emerge as an economic bloc. A prosperous South Asia will also be a peaceful South Asia. Our PM said this vision calls for a change in mindsets, hence the relevance of the theme of the 2008 Summit viz., “Growth through Partnership”. Growth must have a multiplier effect through mechanisms such as the SAARC Development Fund and SAARC Model Villages Project. We want to see steady progress towards a South Asia Customs Union and then a South Asia Economic Union. Physical connectivity is also a common priority – through railway road, and other transport infrastructure. The proposed South Asia University, and plans for a Food Bank are also most important for all SAARC members. There are of course other equally important priorities like the SAARC Cultural Festival and the SAARC Action Plan on Climate Change.

T.D.L.: Your country has made gaining a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council one of its top diplomatic priorities. Do you see any progress in the drive to enlarge this multilateral body? On a broader level, where do you see India in the new international architecture that is taking shape?

H.E.R.M.: We believe that expansion of the UN Security Council is necessary to reflect current political realities of the world. The Security Council has remained static over the last 5 decades even as the membership of the General Assembly has vastly increased. This has decreased the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council. There appears to be a lack of political will to make progress on enlargement despite the mandate of the General Assembly.
India believes that the developing world as a whole needs greater representation in the new international architecture. India’s large population and size, its contribution to international peace and security, the growing impact of its economy and its efforts to promote global dialogue and cooperation make it a suitable candidate for membership of the Security Council.

T.D.L.: India celebrated the 60th anniversary of its independence in 2007. How do you feel about the way Indian society has been transformed? How can India benefit from the great admiration for its culture worldwide and especially in France, which welcomed your country as the guest of honor at the 2007 Paris Book Fair.

H.E.R.M.: The 60th anniversary of India’s independence was an occasion for great joy and reflection. Joy and pride at what has been achieved in transforming a country that was a metaphor for poverty, hunger and disease into one of the world’s ten largest economies and an influential member of the comity of nations. And reflection on what remains to be done to lift the remaining 25% of our population out of poverty and to improve the living standards of all Indians.
India’s culture has many admirers in the world and it is fitting that the 60th anniversary of independence was commemorated essentially through culture : the fabulous exhibition of 5th - 6th century Gupta sculptures at Grand Palais ; our being guest of honour at the Salon du Livre; the Incredible India festival at Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris, and in numerous other cities; the Rajasthan spectacle at Chantilly during the Prix Diane and so many other special celebrations. France is indeed a special country where culture plays an important role in diplomacy and statecraft. The admiration for Indian culture is deeply held here and has helped our relations in a broad sense. I do hope we can build on this through having a well established India Cultural Centre in Paris. This great city is home to cultural centres of most of the world’s great cultures and the absence of an Indian centre is striking. We hope the authorities in the government of France and City of Paris will facilitate the establishment of an Indian Culture Centre just as our government made it possible for France to set-up its cultural base in the heart of Delhi.

This dossier and all its articles were made before the occurrence of the terrible terrorist attacks in the city of Mumbaï in November 2008.

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