The inaugural webinar of the ‘Ambassador Speaks’ series was addressed by His Excellency Mr Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India who delivered a lecture on “Strategic Autonomy: A driver of French-Indian Relations in Times of Changing Geopolitics”.  Ambassador Lenain was welcomed by Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, President, PIC. In his opening remarks, Dr Mashelkar noted that within the evolving geopolitical dynamic, social, political, and economic changes were being driven by crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that given the vantage point they have, Ambassadors of various nations are best placed to provide their perspective on these global changes and the series launched by PIC would throw valuable light on global developments with an Indian context.

Amb. Lenain provided a brief overview of the evolution of Indo-French bilateral relations, before expounding on why France considers India an important partner. He emphasised that India is a natural partner to France not only on security, but also on the economy, trade, and most significantly for promoting the practice of multilateralism. Especially in light of the fact that China is now considered a systemic rival by the European Union.

The French Ambassador also highlighted that France would like to trade more with India, specifically agro-products and wines, but that the Indian market was difficult to access owing to trade barriers. That defence and nuclear cooperation between India and France was healthy and would continue apace, was also emphasised.

The session was chaired by former Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale. Questions from the audience focused on France’s support for India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, defence industrial cooperation, and foreign investment.