Insights into Editorial: The French connections
French President’s visit to India aims at strengthening the bilateral economic, political and strategic dimension of engagement between the two countries.
During the talks both the leaders reviewed the progress achieved in bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Besides, the visit is also aimed at forging not only strong manufacturing and technology partnerships, but also greater people to people contacts.
Why is France important to India?
France and India have a very long history of bilateral cooperation in defence, security, space and high technology.
France is the 9th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of over 6 billion dollars from April 2000 to October 2017.
Indian Ocean region will be very important in future peace and development and both the countries will release the Indian Ocean cooperation Joint Strategic Vision.
Today, with Brexit and the weakening of the leadership of German Chancellor, French President has positioned himself as the most credible interlocutor in Europe.
In the international context, India and France can benefit from a shared understanding of the challenges that the world is facing today like the global uncertainties produced by Trump’s disruptive foreign policy and Chinese aggressive policies.
India and France are working together to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which US President has renounced.
Indo-France Relationship: Background
France has always been sympathetic to similar Indian claims based on its ancient civilisation.
Defence cooperation with France began in the 1950s when India acquired the Ouragan aircraft and continued with the Mystères, Jaguar (Anglo-French), Mirage 2000.
Both countries started joint naval exercises ‘Varuna’ in 1983.
France has historically shown more understanding of our strategic programmes than others. It was the first western country with which we established a Strategic Partnership.
France is the first country with which we initiated a Strategic Dialogue after our 1998 nuclear tests when France refused to impose bilateral any sanctions on us and displayed a far greater understanding of India’s security compulsions compared to other countries.
France helped India set up the Sriharikota launch site assisted in engine development and hosting of payloads.
After the Cold War, France decided that its preferred partner in the Indian Ocean Region would be India.
It was the first P-5 country to support India’s claim for a permanent seat in an expanded and reformed UN Security Council.
What are the outcomes of recent France President’s visit?
- New Delhi and Paris signed 14 agreements in various fields of cooperation including nuclear energy, environment, narcotic drugs and people to people ties.
- Both the countries reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross-border terrorism and terror-related incidents in France and India.
- Also affirmed that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds and it should not be associated with any religion, creed, nationality and ethnicity.
- On trade, the two sides emphasized the importance of regular and sustained economic cooperation dialogue through the India-France Joint Committee.
- MoUs were signed regarding the provision of reciprocal logistics support to each other’s armed forces, exchange and reciprocal protection of classified information and developing shared space studies and assets for maritime awareness.
- India and France have agreed to mutually recognize academic qualifications to help students.
India – France strategic partnership:
- An agreement for building six Scorpène submarines in India with French help was signed in 2005.
- Similarly, technology sharing and acquisitions of short range missiles and radar equipment were concluded.
- Joint exercises between the air forces (Garuda series) and the armies (Shakti) were instituted in 2003 and 2011, respectively.
- The government-to-government agreement for 36 Rafale aircrafts has taken place. The ambitious offset target of 50% (nearly ₹25,000 crore), properly implemented, can help in building up India’s budding aerospace industry.
- An agreement was signed about a decade ago for building six EPR (European Pressurized Reactors) nuclear power reactors with a total capacity of 9.6 GW for which negotiations have been on-going between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Areva.
- On green energy, the International Solar Alliance is set in motion jointly by India and France.
- France offered an extra $861.5 million by 2022 for solar projects in developing countries.
- The agreement on the industrial way forward between NPCIL and EdF(Areva) affirms that work at Jaitapur will commence before the end of 2018.
- Like India, France has expressed concern about China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
- French overseas territories in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans provide it with the second largest exclusive economic zone globally. It has long maintained bases in Reunion Islands and Djibouti and established one in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
- This regional dimension is reflected in the Vision Statement on cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.
- Strengthening cooperation with France, particularly in the western Indian Ocean Region makes eminent strategic sense even as India develops its presence in Oman (Duqm) and Seychelles (Assumption Island).
- More synergy between the two navies in the Gulf area where France has a base (in Abu Dhabi) and better mutual understanding of the implications of a Chinese base in Gwadar is important for India.
Trade between two countries:
- Trade has grown in recent years but at $10 billion is half of the trade with Germany.
- Nearly $16 billion worth of agreements at the business summit were signed. There are nearly 1,000 French companies present in while over a hundred Indian businesses have established a presence in France.
- In the past, Indian companies saw the U.K. as the entry point for Europe; now with Brexit approaching, India can also look at France as its entry point for Europe.
- Earlier France assisted India to setup Sriharikota launch site.
- Today, it is a relationship of near equals and the ‘vision statement’ refers to world class joint missions for space situational awareness, high resolution earth observation missions with applications in meteorology, oceanography and cartography.
- Inter-planetary exploration and space transportation systems are cutting edge science and technology areas that have also been identified.
- Another area identified was urban planning and management of services like housing, transport, water, sanitation using the public private partnership model which the French have employed successfully.
- The flagship programme of Smart Cities in which France is focussing on Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry is taking shape as more than half the business agreements signed related to electric mobility, water supply, waste management and smart grids.
- The most significant agreement was the focus on youth and student exchanges.
- Currently about 2,500 Indians go to France annually to pursue higher education, compared to more than 250,000 from China.
- A target has been set to raise it to 10,000 by 2020.
- The agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees and the follow-on Knowledge Summit, where 14 MoUs between educational and scientific institutions were signed.
- A target of a million Indian tourists and 335,000 French tourists has been set for 2020.
- While there are only about 20 flights a week between India and France, there are four times as many to Germany and 10 times as many to the U.K. So no of flights between India and France has to be increased.