RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- INDIA, FRANCE TIES
France backed India getting a permanent seat in the UN Security Council as the two countries expressed their resolve towards freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific and said they were committed towards multilateralism. In a joint statement issued after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron, the two countries supported an inclusive peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled, leading to a lasting political solution. On Iran, they agreed that full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian Nuclear Programme and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 was needed to ensure regional and international peace and security and that current issues need to be resolved peacefully through dialogue. The two nations also vowed to fight against violent and hateful content online as they affirmed their commitment to an open and reliable cyberspace.
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.
Key Highlights of the visit PM Modi’s visit:
- Bilateral Trade
Indian PM Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron noted that there has been positive progress in the development of bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries. The nations also reaffirmed that the India-France Administrative Economic and Trade Committee (AETC) provides an appropriate framework to assess and find ways to further promote the bilateral trade and investment as well as to speed up the resolution of market access issues to the benefit of economic operators.
The two leaders decided to further jointly strengthen work on solving trade and investment issues of concern for both French and Indian companies, including by additional ways and mechanisms.
The two leaders jointly agreed that the high-level France-India economic and financial dialogue should be reactivated as quickly as possible.
- Space Cooperation
India and France expressed their desire to deepen their space cooperation to meet new challenges in space exploration together, whether it concerns planetary exploration or human spaceflight.
Both PM Modi and Emmanuel Macron welcomed the decision to train medical support personnel for Indian astronauts, who will be part of India’s manned space mission by 2022. The training will be carried out both in France and in India.
The leaders further welcomed the signing of an Implementing Arrangement for the establishment of a framework for the realization of joint maritime domain awareness mission. They also welcomed the launch of a Space Climate Observatory that further enhances Indo-French cooperation on combating climate change, besides TRISHNA joint mission and accommodating Argos in Oceansat 3.
The two nations also resolved to act together at the international level to promote norms and best practices necessary for guaranteeing the safety of space missions.
- Digital Space
The two leaders adopted cybersecurity and digital technology road map aimed at expanding Indo-French bilateral cooperation, particularly in the strategic sectors of high-performance computing and Artificial Intelligence, with the target of bringing the start-up ecosystems in both the nations closer to each other.
They further welcomed the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing and Atos aiming at developing the cooperation in the fields of quantum computing, Artificial Intelligence and exascale supercomputing.
PM Modi and Emmanuel Macron expressed satisfaction at the progress in negotiations between NPCIL and EDF since the conclusion of the Industrial Way Forward Agreement between the two parties in 2018 for the construction of six nuclear power reactors in India in Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
The leaders also noted that discussions are underway on the Techno-Commercial Offer and the financing of the project as well as on how to increase localization through manufacturing in India and enhance common understanding on the CLND Act between the two sides.
- Defence Cooperation
India and France determined to further strengthen the cooperation between their armed forces and in this connection are working towards increased interoperability as well as pursuing deliberations to develop joint forces cooperation. They welcomed the signing of an agreement regarding the Provision of Reciprocal Logistics Support.
Defence industrial cooperation has been one of the mainstays of the strategic partnership between India and France. Both PM Modi and the French President commended the progress made in the implementation of agreements signed previously, particularly the delivery of the first Rafale fighter jet earlier this year.
The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen cooperation in defence industry field and extended their support to existing and upcoming partnerships between the defence companies of the two countries in the spirit of “Make in India” and for the mutual benefit of both countries.
- Cultural Ties
PM Modi and France’s Emmanuel Macron agreed to significantly enhance people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges. The two leaders agreed to set up a regular dialogue on consular matters, which will facilitate exchange and mobility. Overall, around 700 000 Indian tourists visited France in 2018, which 17 percent more than in 2017 and more than 250,000 French tourists visited India in the same year.
The two leaders decided that India will be the Country of Honour for the 2020 edition of Livre Paris, the Paris international book fair and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi will hold the first exhibition in India of French artist Gérard Garouste in January 2020, while the Musée national d’art moderne (Centre Georges Pompidou) will hold a dedicated exhibition of the works of Indian artist Sayed Haider Raza in 2021.
Further, India will organise Namasté France, in 2021-2022 and the two countries will adopt a Plan of Action by the end of 2019 aimed at enhancing co-produced projects, distribution, and training in the fields of cinema, video games and virtual reality. France and India agreed to cooperate shooting of films in both countries.
The two nations expressed satisfaction on the status of student mobility between the two countries, which has been aided by the teaching of French in India and the creation of the network of schools for Excellence in French.
The two leaders further welcomed the holding of the Second Knowledge Summit in Lyon, France, in October 2019. This summit is expected to help structure academic and scientific partnerships with corporate entities on crucial issues, such as aerospace, renewable energy, green chemistry, smart cities, agriculture, marine sciences, and Artificial Intelligence.
India and France signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on Skill Development
- Climate Change
The two nations reaffirmed their shared commitment to effectively combat climate change and loss of biodiversity.
Further, acknowledging the need for multi-level action – local, national, regional and global – France and India urged all stakeholders to contribute to the success of the Climate Action Summit convened by the United Nations Secretary-General on 23rd September 2019 and to encourage the global efforts towards combating climate change.
- Renewable energy
India and France reaffirmed their joint commitment to accelerate the development and deployment of renewable energy. They also welcomed the progress made by the International Solar Alliance in capacity building and sharing of best practices to harness solar energy among the member nations.
The two leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross-border terrorism and terror-related incidents in France and India. Both leaders reaffirmed that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever and it should not be associated with any religion, creed, nationality and ethnicity.
The leaders also reaffirmed their strong determination to eliminate terrorism wherever it is to be found and urged the international community to strengthen the efforts to counter and prevent terrorist financing.
- Indian Ocean Region
India and France welcomed the swift implementation of the conclusions of the Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, adopted during the State Visit to India of President Macron in March 2018.
For the implementation of the White Shipping agreement, India and France welcome the appointment of a French liaison officer at the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurugram. The two nations further intend to coordinate their action at the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and undertake, along with interested states, a joint project for reinforcing assets for combatting piracy and all kinds of maritime trafficking in the Southern Indian Ocean.
France also intends to work concertedly with India at the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), over which it will preside from 2020 to 2022.
- UNSC reforms: France supports India’s permanent membership
India and France jointly call for reform of the United Nations Security Council that would enable India to gain a permanent seat on it.
They also reaffirmed their commitment to working expeditiously and constructively, together and with others towards the modernisation of the World Trade Organization, including in the lead-up to the 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2020.
Further, the two nations reaffirmed their determination to deepen the relations between the EU and India on strategic and multilateral issues as well as in trade, investment and innovation.
- Indo-French naval cooperation is aimed at securing the critical sea lanes, the need to effectively combat security threats piracy, trans-national crime and terrorism and also to build security capacities in the Indian Ocean.
- The more substantive pay-off of a nautical pact with France for India is a potential expansion of the Indian Navy’s operational footprint across the Indo-Pacific region.
- Future discussions might result in the signing of a reciprocal agreement granting French naval vessels access to Indian ports for repair and resupply, and Indian vessels the right to routinely use France’s Indian Ocean military bases like Djibouti where china has a base.
- French facilities are likely to add to India’s network of nautical outposts in the IOR, including in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Seychelles, where India plans to build and operate a military base.
- French companies, such as Dassault Aviation etc are extremely competitive and the country’s defence industry has a reliable record of production and supply with firms having particular expertise in navigating India’s defence market for instance the contracts for the Rafale aircraft and Scorpene submarines (Project-75).
- A nautical pact with France sends a strong message to India’s geopolitical antagonists in maritime Asia. India will be hoping for a closer engagement in the Western Indian Ocean, where France has one of the most forward-deployed armed forces in the world.
- India’s naval leadership would be keen to expand the scope and complexity of the Indo-French bilateral naval exercise VARUNA
- A partnership with the French navy in littoral South-East Asia would allow the Indian Navy to influence the security-dynamic of the Pacific, even extending operations to the Southern Pacific Islands.
- While the governments share a robust relationship, the business relationships are weak. Bilateral trade is less than half of India’s trade with Germany. The target of €12 billion set in 2008 remains elusive.
- French FDI has picked up in recent years, but hardly does justice to the fact that there are more than 800 French enterprises in India.
French social security laws, long-term student visas, and the facility to work for two-three years to pay off student loans are some of the areas that need to be worked out so that more effective cooperation can take place between the two countries.
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