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‘In the South Asian region,India appears to us a factor of stability’

Excerpts from a lecture delivered by France’s defence minister,Jean-Yves Le Drian,at IDSA,Delhi,on July 26


August 3, 2013 4:37:17 am

Excerpts from a lecture delivered by France’s defence minister,Jean-Yves Le Drian,at IDSA,Delhi,on July 26

Our strategic environment has undergone a deep transformation,and so has our economic environment. Two imperatives of sovereignty had to be reconciled: our strategic autonomy and our financial sovereignty. President [Francois Hollande has set the course: we will have a new military and industrial strategy that will guarantee our strategic autonomy. On average,this accounts for a defence spending of 1.8 per cent of France’s GDP till 2020. Despite the economic crisis,France is thus making the necessary effort to remain one of the major military powers of the world.

What does strategic autonomy mean for France? National sovereignty depends on the state’s autonomy of assessment,decision-making and action. This does not imply that we are cloaked in isolation or unilateralism. It is just the reverse. We intend to cooperate with our partners and our allies for the world’s security. We respect international law. This is both a choice and a necessity. But we intend to remain in control of our decisions and our actions with regard to defence and security.

Our independent nuclear deterrence capacity is based on a total of less than 300 nuclear warheads,which can be launched from two components: a permanent deep waters submarine component composed of four nuclear-propelled submarines equipped with inter- continental ballistic missiles; the other component,which is airborne,is composed of two squadrons of Mirage 2000N and Rafale fighter aircraft. In the near future,all of these will be Rafale aircraft. The Rafale embarked on the nuclear-propelled aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle can also contribute to nuclear deterrence. This capacity protects France from all state-led aggressions or threats against its vital interests. It thus also guarantees our autonomy of action and decision-making.

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The intervention of our forces in a theatre of operations outside our national territory provides France with the strategic depth indispensable for its security. Over and above the capabilities that we additionally devote to the constant protection of French territory,we are thus ready to be engaged in stabilisation and crisis management missions in all their diversity,a total of 7,000 men spread over three theatres of operations,along with the associated air and naval units.

We also keep a joint force for major coercive action that is capable of first entry in a theatre of operations. Composed of around 15,000 land troops,this force can combine 45 aircraft and a carrier vessel battle group,which includes projection and command ships and a nuclear-propelled attack submarine. This force will also incorporate reinforced intelligence and cyber-defence capabilities as well as special forces,drones and mid-air refuellers for the air force. The “White Paper on Defence and National Security”.is precise: in the event of an open crisis in Asia,France,in keeping with its international responsibilities,would contribute on the political and military fronts alongside its allies to respond to it.

Regarding military capabilities,I would like to underscore some of the priorities defined in our white paper. First,cyber defence. We are endowing ourselves with technical intelligence capabilities to identify the source of the attacks,assess the offensive capacities of potential adversaries and be capable of countering them. We will be earmarking considerable funds,with the organisation of cyber defence integrated with the armed forces,along with offensive and defensive capacities to prepare for and support military operations.

Another priority: intelligence. Knowing and anticipating is a must for assessing situations for ourselves and taking informed decisions. We will thus continue to develop our space capabilities with regard to signals intelligence and imaging.

In the background,we are,of course,reaffirming our industrial ambition. It is an integral part of our strategic autonomy. We intend to maintain the skills of French industry at a level of global excellence. Enhancing cooperation in Europe will be encouraged,with the aim of developing specialised and complementary competitive clusters. This is what we can also do with India.

Geography and history are such that India and France do not share the same security contexts. But globalisation,technological progress,the cross-cutting nature of current or impending threats are such that today,we are more exposed to threats that are similar on several counts.

In our white paper,apart from our closest Western and European allies,there is no other country that is mentioned in the same terms in various contexts. In the South Asian region,India appears to us as a factor of stability. We support the reform of the United Nations Security Council that would make room for new permanent members,which would include India.

Today,we are pursuing a multifaceted military cooperation. Its ambition is even greater as our mutual trust is very high. The underlying principles of this defence cooperation are well established today. France and India have embarked on a long-term partnership,which is strategic in nature. It is obvious that we have gone beyond the client-supplier relation. Our cooperative projects should further improve our respective industrial and technological bases in the defence sector and contribute to strengthening the security of both our countries. From this perspective,France is prepared to initiate joint co-development and co-production projects,which once we decide on together,would include exporting the equipment produced in third-country markets. Similarly,France is ready to share an increasing level of defence technology,in connection with the development of joint projects.

In the same logic of partnership,France assures India of the continuity of supplies for acquired equipment. Complying with our laws and national interests,we are prepared,when the time comes,to encourage investments in the defence sector,which the companies concerned may desire to make. French defence companies respect French law on the prohibition of corruption. This seems obvious,but I think it’s better to recall this because all countries do not have the same conception of their obligations.

Strategic autonomy is at the core of our defence policies and diplomacies. I would like to make a wish: in a few years,thanks to all the cooperation being initiated today,France and India will feel stronger,safer,closer to each other,having together strengthened their strategic autonomy. We could then be proud of the work accomplished.

The full text is available on the French Embassy in India’s website

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