Raj Chengappa: There is an age gap of something like 27 years between both of you [Narendra Modi and Emmanuel Macron]. What is the chemistry you share with Mr Modi?
Emmanuel Macron: I was very impressed by Prime Minister Modi’s vision, especially his strong commitment to [reversing] climate [change], and we will deliver a part of this agenda together in India, especially with the International Solar Alliance. But I think the chemistry is due to the fact that he is a very wise man with a personal philosophy and taste for independence. And he is very attached to the sovereignty of your country as I am to the sovereignty of my country.
RC: One of the things you and PM Modi talked about is deepening the strategic relationship. What is the Macron stamp you want to leave when you land in Delhi?
EM: For me, India is one of the credible partners to preserve the stability of the whole region [Indian Ocean/Pacific Ocean region], to avoid any predominance and to preserve this liberty of sovereignty of our partners. Speaking about collective security and this bilateral agenda, as well as speaking about counter-terrorism and all the different kinds of terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism, both of us experienced different forms of terrorism during the last years, and it’s very important to work closely to reinforce our common exchange, the links between our intelligence services, in order to protect our people.
RC: I am glad you mentioned terrorism because that is of deep concern to both countries… What are the combined initiatives we can take, particularly vis-a-vis countries that support terror, such as Pakistan?
EM: What we have to do now is increase bilateral cooperation in terms of security, exchange of good practices and information. One of the threats for you will be the return of jehadis from the Iraq-Syria region. One of the main common interests we have is to cooperate in this area. They attacked France several times, and they will now decide to go back, take refuge in your region. It’s very important to cooperate very concretely, in terms of exchange of intelligence, increase cooperation in counter-terrorism.
RC: The Rafale deal has become a subject of much controversy in India with the opposition Congress saying India has paid too much, that they had negotiated a better deal in their time. What is the truth?
EM: I wasn’t part of it, but I have to say the negotiations were a win-win situation for both of us…A large part of the production will now be in India, so the interests of the industry and workers were very well defended… And from a security standpoint, you have got a great deal, because Rafale is a best-in-class aircraft and it’s the best way to be protected in the current environment. As for France, it was very good because India was a very important prospect and because it is one part of this common agreement we will have.
RC: Why can’t the details of the deal be revealed and the air cleared up rather than have accusations flying around?
EM: First of all, you have these commercial agreements, and obviously you have competitors and we can’t let them know details of the deal. Secondly, there are some discussions to be organised by the Indian government, and they will have to consider which details they would want to be revealed to the opposition and Parliament.
RC: India has concerns about One Belt, One Road. What do you think China needs to do to address and allay these fears?
EM: If the OBOR initiative has to be a success, it has be more inclusive and balanced with the different countries of the region where it is to be deployed. OBOR should be consistent with our global commitments and has to be green.
I understand how this initiative could be considered a threat from an Indian point of view. The best answer would be to propose something different. Say, okay, we need to develop the overall region till Africa. We need more trade, more economic integration, more exchange, we need to better educate our people. We can be part of it because it is for the common good, but let’s discuss our role in the game, be part of the overall scheme. If this is just a hegemonic scheme, it will never fly.