French Ambassador to India Alexander Ziegler insists that there is ‘no scandal’. Reiterating the strategic relationship between India and France “is built on trust”, he stated this fact in an interview to “The Economic Times”, in the context of the ongoing controversy over the Rafale deal. He was asked about the progressive partnership between the two countries; to which he replied, “Bilateral trade between India and France is at 16 billion Euros having grown by 20% last year. On the investment side we are the top 5 major investors with around four lakh people employed by French companies in this country. Out of the top 40 French companies almost 30 have established R&D centres in this country. So the relation we share with India is not about market shares or trade figure but a long-term strategic partnership based on trust and innovation”. Secondly, he was asked about the measures taken by the two countries to scale up, as President Ram Nath Kovind said, the bilateral trade was far below potential. To this Ziegler replied, “I think trade figures are not showing the full picture of our economic relations. Yes, we have to do better and yes we should do better but it is a continuous process. I think helping SMEs to get access to our respective market is really a key priority to us in the years to come because they are the ones which are creating new technologies and new job”.
While replying to the question as to what about exploring new opportunities and traditional sectors and what partnership are being explored in this strategic relationship between France and India, he replied, “India and France have a very strong cooperation of sharing intelligence training, the respective counter terrorism forces and also working on space cooperation. In fact, India is actually our first partner outside the EU on space cooperation. Both countries are working rapidly on various aspects of counter terrorism and cyber security and combating illegal and terrorist context on the internet. Financing of terrorists group is also a topic on which France and India are cooperating quite a lot . France has also expressed its willingness to provide help for India’s manned space mission, Gaganyaan.”
Lastly, he clarified when he was asked as to why so many question being raised by political parties as well as industry people on the Rafale deal. And Ziegler responded saying, “Dassault aviation has been providing fighter jet to India for many years. People should concentrate more on facts instead of concentrating on tweets, because honestly when you really look at the facts there is no scandal to discuss. There shouldn’t be any reason for controversy.”
The Rafale Deal controversy is a political controversy in India related to the purchase of 36 multirole fighter aircraft for a price estimated to be Rs 58,000 crore (7.8 billion euros) by the Defence Ministry from India by France’s Dassault. The day after signing the IGA between France and India, Indian National Congress asked for details of the agreement to be made public and alleged that the procurement procedures were bypassed in acquisition of Rafale. Later Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dismissed the charges as factually false.