New Delhi: France wants the number of Indian students in the country to rise to 20,000 by 2025, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Wednesday.
The minister also said there could be no better indicator of peace and true friendship among nations than a student trained and graduated abroad who becomes acquainted with two cultures and can stand up for both.
Colonna is currently on a three-day visit to India. She made the comments during an interaction with students at the Lady Shri Ram College here.
“The objective assigned by President Emmanuel Macron is clear: 20,000 Indian students in France by 2025. For us to achieve this objective, we must attract, every year, 7,500 to 8,000 students, and therefore increase the actual numbers by 50 per cent. It is very ambitious, but between India and France, sky is the limit,” she said.
“To achieve it, we are expanding the presence of France in India. We want France to be seen as a leading country in terms of education and research, which it is,” Colonna said.
The French minister noted that after the figures went down in 2020 due to the pandemic, France would welcome in 2022 almost the same number of Indian students as in 2019. In 2019, more than 5,000 students completed their procedure for long-stay studies in France, she said.
“So, I guess the appeal for France among Indian students is as strong as ever and that is very heartwarming to me. We also want to expand the scope of fields open to Indian students. Our business schools are among the best in the world, but so are our engineering schools and our public universities.
“We are working hard to enlarge the scope of our cooperation to skill development and professional training in economic sectors where France is at the top, including in areas such as aeronautics, transports and automotives, energy, hospitality and food, fashion, graphic arts and design among others,” Colonna said.
The minister stressed that gender balance was a necessity in the field of education.
“Much has changed when it comes to gender balance but we are still not there yet President Macron made it one of the great causes of his two mandates, for France as well as internationally. At the national level, we have introduced new measures in order to fill the so-called ‘gender pay gap’.
“At the European level, the equality between women and men was also one of the key priorities of the French presidency of the European Union that just ended in June 2022. We managed to get a deal signed by all the member states, creating strong and binding rules of gender balance at the level of the company boards. This new European law called ‘Women on Boards’ will be a huge change in the whole European Union,” she said.
As part of her official visit from September 13-15, Colonna will travel to Mumbai for engagements with industry leaders and site visits on Thursday.
She will also hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on September 14 “on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest”.
“People-to-people contacts are to be upheld at all costs. Between France and India, we do encourage people to move and have exchanges. Team France in India makes sure academicians, researchers, intellectuals, experts, specialists, civil society actors, businesswomen and men come and go between countries, exchange ideas and cooperate on various project on an everyday basis.
“The rich cultural agenda proposed by the French Institute in India, notably during the festival Bonjour India among others, reflect this endeavour. There cannot be a better indicator of peace and true friendship among nations than a student trained and graduated abroad who becomes acquainted with two cultures and can stand up for both,” she said.