‘India and France have a lot in common’

Ambassador of France to India, Alexandre Ziegler, talks about feeling at home in India and the values he finds the nation shares with his country. Shrabasti Mallik takes notes

Coming to India…

It has been over a year since I arrived in India and I have enjoyed every minute of it. From the first day, I have felt completely at home: I believe Indian and French people have a real affinity, we understand each other very well. I had travelled to India before, including during President Hollande’s state visit in January 2016. I chose to be the ambassador to this very country because I knew what a fascinating experience it was going to be. We share an excellent relationship with India and I am committed to intensifying it further.

Similarities between India and France…

India and France are great democracies with a lot in common and a foundation of shared values. We have a solid strategic partnership that has enabled us to build an enduring cooperation on defence, energy, space and security. We have a shared commitment to supporting sustainable growth. Our cooperation to combat climate change and on clean energy has taken an unprecedented importance with the Paris Agreement and the Solar Alliance. People-to-people ties are also constantly growing closer and one of my objectives is to increase student mobility and tourism significantly between the countries.

Travelling in India…

I travel a lot, because that’s how you get the real feel of a country. I have been to most Indian states and seen many enthralling places. It’s difficult to name a favourite, but Varanasi, for instance, is a city that I like to revisit and bring visitors from France to, because I feel that there you get a sense of India’s intense spiritual strength.

Things an Indian should do in France…

While Paris remains a top favourite, I would highly recommend Indian guests to experience the wealth and diversity of France’s regions: I have a special fondness for my native Bordeaux region. Indulge in unique experiences such as wine trails. Experience local culture and cuisine, and discover France’s unique art de vivre or way of life. Spend a leisurely afternoon in an outdoor café and watch the world go by. Pepper sentences with a few French words: bonjour (hello), merci (thank you), s’il-vous-plaît (please), to engage with locals.

Things a Frenchman should do in India…

French tourists come to India in large numbers. There is a true attraction in France for India’s vibrant culture and heritage. It is emotional for a Frenchman to visit places such as Puducherry and Chandannagar, where both cultures meet.

I would recommend my fellow citizens to have an immersive experience in India – savour the diverse cuisines, participate in festivals, go to the movie hall, interact with the locals. and visit again, because India is too vast and too diverse to be fully appreciated in a single journey!

The best time to visit France…

France is a year-round destination. Those enamoured by snow and alpine activities would enjoy a winter holiday in our beautiful mountains. Come spring, the winter chill thaws a bit and renders the countryside beautiful. Summer sees our lavender fields in full bloom, while our beaches offer many activities. Landscapes turn picturesque in autumn, an ideal time for vineyard discoveries and harvest encounters.

France is synonymous with luxury, but India is also making a mark in the field. Your opinion…

France is proud to house many worldrenowned brands. India’s position and prowess in the luxury space remains unchallenged. A mélange of experienced campaigners in the field and the entry of new talent is the perfect combination that will take India to greater heights.

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