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

Sunday,25 Feb 2018 11:01 AM IST

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:

Your visit comes ahead of a visit by President Emmanuel Macron to India when he will attend the International Solar Alliance conference. What areas of bilateral cooperation will be the focus for your visit?

I am delighted to be in India and lay the groundwork for the upcoming visit of President Emmanuel Macron. The relationship between India and France is especially strong. It dates long back to History. Since Independence, our friendship has grown ceaselessly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to our partnership as an “all-weather partnership”. It could not be better expressed. 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. Our economic relations are developing, with an increasing number of French companies investing massively in India, particularly in the promising sector of sustainable urban development and renewable energy. One of the aims of my visit is also to strengthen people-to-people ties between our two countries, and it is with great pleasure that I will inaugurate Bonjour India, which through more than 300 events spread across India, from November 2017 to February 2018, will help highlight an innovative and creative France, as well as the vitality of the Indo-French partnership.

Recently, a bid by US, Britain and France to designate Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council was blocked by China, a move India has pursued as well. How do you respond to this and will France try again for the designation?

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. As for India and France, they are in full solidarity in the face of terrorism and know that they can count on each other.

On Climate Change, given US decision to pull out of the Paris deal, how do India and France propose to cooperate on fighting global warming? Also, is there any attempt to hold the US to account for its decision, penalize the US, etc.?

The Paris Agreement remains the pillar for combatting climate change. It 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. We closely cooperate with India on climate change issues. India has been a key partner for COP21: 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. We are rallying partners for building the International Solar Alliance, which now has 44 countries under its umbrella and will enable them to gain facilitated access to solar energy. We wish to continue forging ahead. It’s a more constructive approach than trying to penalise the United States.

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