Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Jun 18, 2004
Industry & Economy
French Ambassador sees change in perception on India
Mr Dominique Girard
New Delhi , June 17
TODAY India is presenting an image of an open country with room for reform, innovation and improvement of fiscal situation and in the struggle against corruption and in the area of red-tap and these things are "very important" from the investor perspective, according to Mr Dominique Girard, Ambassador of France to India.
In an interview to Business Line here, Mr Girard said that the changes in perception depended not only on the civil servants or bureaucracy but also to a large extent on the efforts made by both sides of the business people.
"The fact that India has such resources in information technology, bio-technology and if it is not well publicised and if the policies regarding privatisation is not improved, obviously there will be misgivings about the future of economic relationship", he said adding that he has decided to visit the various French provinces and regions to disseminate this new idea about India.
He said the objective was to boost the efforts made by Indians themselves to talk to the people in the French region, chambers of commerce and industries and individual companies because "there is so much competition today and if you want to pass the message that India is a good potential partner, you have to go and I have already started this because the local political parties, local trade and local people are interested to know about the changing India".
Asked about the ideological affinity between the new Government in India being supported by the Left Parties from outside and French original experiment in cohabitation, the French envoy said, "We have the same secular value".
Most importantly, Mr Girard said, "We have a view in France of the development of emerging countries which I think is very much understanding in terms of social burden, the necessity to think in terms of human development and not only in terms of capital development we also have a view that globalisation should be encouraged but should also be controlled so that it is not to the detriment of the people themselves."
Elaborating further on this, he said, "so it only puts us in a situation to understand very well what the Government of India can think and the way it will try to orient its policies. We are in a way very happy that this Government led by Dr Manmohan Singh because of its alliances with different parties, their policies seem to be quite reasonable and in the right direction. We are hopeful and waiting to know about the decision of the implementation of the Common Minimum Programme".
Even if you take the presence of Communist parties among the supporters of the Government, he said " I have made several trips to West Bengal and recently we have the French Industry Minister visiting and we took her to West Bengal. What we saw there was local authorities are very supportive of foreign investment and market-oriented economy. We know that they are communists, but you know they do not speak like hard-line Bolsheviks. They are very reasonable, dignified and moderate people and there is no reason to be worried by that at all."
When his attention was drawn to the developments in bilateral relations subsequent to the celebration of French season in India at which French dignitaries including the Prime Minister visited India last year, Mr Girard said that since then "we have deepened cooperation and received new important visitors. We have continued ongoing events in priority sectors through development of investment, through a number of companies which have decided either to establish trade connections with India or to make use of the facilities that exist here itself for human resources or otherwise".
He said today there was a new and dynamic momentum in the economic relationship and it was very clear when you see major French companies expanding their business here, exploring new sectors and investing sometimes in Greenfield investments in India.
Mr Girard cited that the French major Michelin, world's leading tyre company, had started cooperation with Apollo Tyres by taking equity in the latter and it was also building a new plant in Pune, which would be operational next year.
The company has decided to make India a major partner both for the sale of India's markets as also for making for other markets.
Another company which has been quite active in India for a decade, Alcatel, had decided to go into the mobile market and also the broadband market, he said adding that Saint Gobain, which had invested three years ago in Chennai, has decided to double the size of investment for cut-glass and it is also making new unit for serrated glass for automobile use.
Another big development of cooperation making use of the available Indian manpower is in the field of aeronautics. Snecma, not only has joint ventures with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, but has also opened its own research centres with 80 Indian engineers in Bangalore, which are slated to go beyond 100.
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