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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at Ambition India 2021

October 29, 2021

Mr. Gerard Larcher, President of the French Senate
Mr. Jean Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Mr. Roger Karoutchi, Vice President of the French Senate
Shri K.T. Rama Rao, senior minister from the state of Telangana,
Our two Ambassadors,
The Business France Team,

1. I am very pleased to join you today and I want to specially thank the President of the Senate for opening the doors of the magnificent Senate building for India, today. Thank you, Business France, for organising the event.

2. While this event is billed as Ambition India, it is really about the shared ambitions of India and France.

3. The multiple crises facing the world are riding on the deeper global structural changes that have been sharpened by the pandemic. It has stripped us of the comfort of the familiar, tested existing relationships, exerted stress on global institutions and is reshaping international order.

4. In these times, values, trust and transparency matter. These traits define India-France relations. We are also bound by our shared belief in strategic autonomy and a multipolar world, underpinned by reformed and effective multilateralism. That has produced decades of solidarity, most recently during the pandemic, and a relationship free from sudden shifts and surprises.

5. For this reason, our strategic partnership has become even more relevant in the 21st century – both to strengthen multilateralism, which must be the basis of a stable multipolar world, and even more for the future of the Indo Pacific region.

6. India is at the strategic centre of this region; France its two bookends with a vast EEZ. India sees France as a resident power in the Indo Pacific region, indispensable to its peace and stability, and a premier partner for India in the region.

7. Our partnership must help safeguard our interests, protect the commons and uphold international law and multilateralism. But, it must also offer better alternatives to countries in the region and enable them to make sovereign and viable choices.

8. For that, our partnership in trade, investment, connectivity, health and sustainability will matter as much as our cooperation in defence and security.

9. Recent experiences also call for addressing concentration risk in manufactured goods, making supply chain resilient and adjusting to the emerging geopolitical competition of trade and technology.

10. Closer economic partnership between India and France can support these shared concerns and strategic objectives.

11. But, India is also an exciting, rapidly growing, stable, rule-based, market-driven and democratic frontier of economic opportunities, located at the very heart of the dynamic Indo Pacific region.

12. Just last week, we crossed the milestone of a billion dozes of vaccinations. This historic milestone was based on a combination of domestic development and manufacture and licenced production, an extraordinary digital platform, exceptional delivery system and public acceptance. For a country that had no PPE unit when the pandemic broke, we are now the second largest manufacturer in the world. Where we had one RT-PCR testing lab then, we can now do millions of tests in a day.

13. All stakeholders have contributed to the scale and speed of this enterprise. But, what makes it possible is the radically transformed nature of public-private partnership, industry-science collaboration and the ease of doing business in India.

14. Indeed, even as Prime Minister Modi led efforts to address the immediate challenges of an unprecedented pandemic, he also sustained the process of bold reforms to boost recovery, accelerate growth and make Indian economy more resilient and self -reliant, without turning our back on fair trade.

15. As we all know, India is expected to grow at 9.5% and remain the fastest growing economy at least till 2025. Growth is broad-based, touching all sectors. Last year, our FDI grew 13%, when global flows declined 42%, and Foreign Portfolio Investment has kept pace with surge in domestic investments. Our pandemic response made sure we don’t lose fiscal stability over the long run or fuel unsustainable inflation during the recovery.

16. There have been broad-based reforms in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, labour laws, small scale industry, defence industry, financial sector, foreign investment, corporate tax rates and tax administration even over the past year. Digitally driven governance has brought in single window approvals, ease of compliance and transparency in regulation. Logistics and infrastructure are expanding at an unprecedented rate.

17. In our federal setup, states play a critical role in business. Our vision is seamless cooperation between Centre and states. You will of course hear from a senior minister, from one of our states, how they are implementing their own wide-ranging reforms.

18. In privatisation of public sector units, offering a National Infrastructure Pipeline of USD 1.4 trillion and a National Monetisation Pipeline for brown field assets worth USD 80 billion, the government is looking to make the economy more efficient and improve return on its assets. It also offers enormous opportunities to international investors.

19. To this, I should add the defence industry, where India’s drive for defence industrialisation and technological self-reliance, offers excellent opportunities and France has world class capabilities in that regard.

20. France has been a key economic partner for India. Its top businesses have had a long presence across every sector of our economy, from luxury to defence, agriculture to manufacturing, infrastructure to technology and services. Many lead their industries and export sophisticated products out of India. Post pandemic, I see an increased sense of confidence and interest, motivated, in part, by the same concerns that are driving our policies.

21. There are three areas of critical importance to our collective future – health, climate and digital. Each is a promising opportunity for our partnership, not just for our economies, but also to build our global competitiveness and leadership in the emerging world.

22. In health, there have been reciprocal investments in India and France. I am truly pleased that our embassy, in partnership with the national chamber MEDEF, hosted a hydrogen summit this month and will launch a India-France digital partnership summit – InFinity (India-France Innovation in Information Technology) in late November, with the support of the French Government and its institutions. I am happy with the focus our mission and chambers are giving to agriculture and food, where our partnership should, in fact be natural.

23. France and India are blessed with complementarity of resources, skills and scale and, political will.

24. EU brings enormous weight behind this equation. This year’s EU27 plus India Summit, hosted by Portugal, signalled our and EU’s intention to take our partnership to a new level. As part of this vision, India has made bold offers for agreements on trade and investment.

25. France has led EU in building a strategy for the Indo Pacific region. We look to France to put this high on European Commission’s agenda, so that a new framework will bring together over 1.8 billion people, and some of the largest economies, joined by democracy and trust in the shared pursuit of prosperity and shaping a new order.

26. I often discuss the future of our two countries and the world with my friend Minister Le Drian. Though neither of us lead an economic ministry, we agree that commerce, ecological transition, finance and technology will shape that future. But, we also recognise that we are entering a phase where politics will shape economic choices.

27. France and India are fortunate to have the best of both – political trust and economic opportunities. And, we must seize this window of opportunity. To promote flow of investment and business in both directions. That is how it must be.

28. I look forward to visiting France in the near future to continue this dialogue.

Till then thank you very much for your attention. My best wishes.

Thank you.

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