French Parliamentarian & Head of the Friends of India Group in the National Assembly
Give India its Due
France can help India in meeting its environment challenges, mainly in cleaning rivers, waste management and in air pollution. But the EU and the world needs to give India its due, says Paul Giacobbi.
Paris is set to host COP21 meet, what are your expectations from India?
India is an important part of the climate change negotiations. India has big problem with environment, especially the air pollution and Indian economy is growing rapidly. So, we have to discuss with India this subject, and set with Indian people that such and such would be the limit for Indian carbon emissions. Reach a negotiated solution with India. This is the way to treat a country like India.
India is moving rapidly towards urbanisation. Do you see any scope for collaboration between France and India in meeting challenges posed by pollution?
We are quite good in France in environment solutions like urban planning, transportation, clean environment etc. Modi has decided to clean Ganga river. We have remarkable experience in cleaning rivers. When I was young, the river Seine was terrible but now it’s quite clean.
When I speak in France about this huge project of cleaning Ganga in India, I said that there will be need for river basin management like we have for our rivers. We have all the managerial and industrial tools in France to clean rivers, which is very important, and we can have a real cooperation, not just in setting up one plant for cleaning rivers, but the entire river management and organisational expertise that we have.
While India and France have good business relations, at least at the top level, the small and medium enterprises are unknown to each other on both sides. Why?
There are various reasons. First, in France we have many very big companies, like Cap Gemini, Areva, EDF, Dassault and then we have very small companies. But we lack the intermediary sized companies. So, for the small French companies, exporting and exporting to new destinations like India is very difficult, because Indian market is complex; there are rules, special habits, particular norms or lack of norms. It is easier for big companies but very difficult for small companies.
Second, in France we like the concept of a big deal. However, the reality of business relations is not big deals. The reality is thousands of small and medium ticket deals. If we can sell somewhere in India, industrial tools for EUR 1-3 million and repeat this kind of deal by 100- 200 times, we reach the same size as a Rafale deal. It is better to have a large number of small and medium sized deals rather than just focus on the few big ones.
We need to make the effort to do business with India on a day-today basis and in order to have that, we need to have people on both sides sharing the same values and perhaps similar education. It would be essential in future. For example, there are a few people with a double accreditation from an Indian and a French institute.
How else can we develop the relations for the small and medium deals? How can we push more of the EUR 1-2 million deals?
When we have a big deal, we have to organise a business plan in order to associate medium-sized industries in the deal. In a big deal, many small companies will do the work, both in France and India. When we sell the Rafale in India, its parts are made all over France. We make some parts even in Corsica. And it will be the same thing in India when Rafale or other French products are going to be made in India. We have to organise that and involve medium-sized firms on both the sides in such projects.
This should be the duty of French institutions like French and foreign chambers of commerce. They need to create relations. Right now, it is difficult for a medium sized company to work with India and we need to help them to learn how to work with India and this can not be through a small book but in reality and take them through the entire process through hand-holding, to prepare them on how to deal with the Indian administration and rules. It is a mistake of the French politicians to only focus on the big deals, the strategic relations. For instance, Germany does not have many big deals with India, but they have thousands of small deals and as a result the German trade with India is three times that of France. That is the way we need to move as well.
Do you think we need to broaden the base of trade between India and France by including new sectors and which sectors could these be?
Yes, this is a very essential question. We French people think we must focus just on two or three kinds of activities, like military, armament, or nuclear, because we think these are the needs of India. In fact, there are many other needs like agriculture, food processing and the logistical link between food and the markets. These are the areas where France is very strong and these are precisely the areas where India is weak, in terms of professionalism and quality and things like cold chain etc. But it is changing and this is a tremendous move for India. From my own experience, 25 years ago, the business of food manufacturing and sales was managed only by little companies and little shops, with no packaging. Nowadays we have modern systems. But, only available at high price and only in big cities. Near my house in Gurgaon, it is nothing like India. There are splendid marketplaces, like Ambience Mall that is exactly like something in Paris but bigger. More and more Indian people want branded, modern and safe food.
Moving to another sector, tourism. India is now becoming an important source market for France and likewise it is an important market for India too. How do you see this going forward?
The Incredible!ndia advertising campaign was remarkable. Incredible India was not about the ordinary India but the India that you choose to imagine. Also, I think that Indians will go more and more easily to Europe. And France is one of the first tourist countries in the world. There is a tradition of Indian people going to Europe. Mr Nehru and his father, Rabindanath Tagore and even his great grandfather used to go to Paris or London. But they were very rich, so it was not a problem.
The problem today is to ensure how Mr Singh, Mr Bose or Mr Patel, the middle class, average Indian can go to France easily. We need to make the Indians be more interested about different parts of France as well, and not just about Paris. So, when Prime Minister Modi decided to pay tribute to the Indian soldiers who were victim of the First World War. This was one of the ways to show new parts of France and also tell the Indians of the common history that we and India share.
There are also some irritants between Europe and India. Like, the European Commission (EC) banned 700 generic drugs from India.
The problem with the EC is that it is not governed by democracy or politicians. It is governed by bureaucracy. So, we need to improve the political and democratic control of the EC and we need to be more diplomatic about these things. Even if we have to ban these generic drugs from India, okay. But it must be done in a much better way. My question is that if these products had been from China, perhaps even the EC would have tried to be diplomatic. Unfortunately, here in Europe, we still don’t consider India as a great power in the world. But, it is. Europeans have realised that India has economic growth of about 7 pc, and China officially 6.5 pc and perhaps even lesser. So more and more, India will become a great power, maybe not the largest economy but we know today that India and China will both stay at top in population and in economy. This is the future.
So what would your advice be to the European Commission?
First, to be polite. It is strange that Prime Minister Modi and his government waited for two weeks in order to have an answer from the European Commission to receive them. It is unacceptable. This is why Modi decided not to go to Brussels for the EU India Summit. Now, the EC is ready but Mr Modi is busy now.
Second, to consider India for what it is about. India is an important player in all international debates and an important partner in the entire global agenda.
You know, France is even half of West Bengal and nearly the size of Gujarat. For almost a decade, Gujarat has been growing at over 10 pc a year, while France has been struggling to grow at all. Gujarat has industry for over a century, but who knows about all this in France? Not many people would even know that Gujarat is the state of origin of Modi. So people here need to know much more about India.