India France Relations: Natural and Real

If there is one Country in the world which has stood with India understanding its strategic, security and international aspect in Europe or Asia or Americas  is France.  1998 nuclear tests when world forced for sanctions on India France refused to impose bilateral or any sanctions on us. It has not intruded itself into our relations with our neighbors and ceased arming Pakistan years ago.

India France Strategic Partnership stands in  defense, space and civil nuclear cooperation. They constitute the three principal pillars.  Apart from these traditional fields of cooperation, India and France are increasingly engaged in new areas of cooperation like climate change, sustainable growth and development, the International Solar Alliance etc.  Seven bilateral joint working groups in various fields exist which are: (i) IT & Telecommunications; (ii) Roads; (iii) Sustainable Urban Development; (iv) Agriculture and Food Processing; (v) Mineral Exploration and Development; (vi) Energy; and (vii) Post.

Both India and France have important bilateral investments and trade and commercial cooperation.  Almost 1000 French companies are present in India with a total turnover of US$ 20 billion and employing 300,000 people in India. French companies have more than 25 R&D centres in India.

France is the ninth largest foreign investor in India with cumulative investment of US$ 5.15 billion from April 2000 to May 2016 which represents 1.5% of the total FDI inflows in India.  In France, about 120 Indian companies are present with an estimated investment stock of Euro one billion and employing 7000 people.

President Emmanuel Macron’s is leading the EU after Brexit and the weakening leadership of Angela Merkel. For now he is the leader in Europe. President Macron will be in India for a four-day-visit (March 9 to 12) “The visit of President Macron is aimed at strengthening the bilateral economic, political and strategic dimension of our engagement”, the MEA said in a statement.

Defense is high priority in his visit though there were many controversies about India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, the French are going to push New Delhi for a follow-on order of 100 or more of such warplanes, to push three or more Scorpene-class submarines during the. It is said that the French are treating the recent controversy around the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft as an “internal political matter” of India. “”I wasn’t part of it, but I have to say the negotiations were a win-win situation for both of us,” he said. “A large part of the production will now be in India, so the interests of the industry and workers were very well defended.”

President Macron is accompanied by CEOs of almost all top French defence firms. This includes the chief of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier,  Chairman and CEO of Naval Group Hervé Guillou, Thales CEO Patrice Caine, Safran Group CEO Philippe Petitcolin and many other sectors CEO’s too.

Both sides will also be discussing the long pending free trade agreement between India and European Union, including the bilateral investment treaty that has become a cause of concern for some of the French companies operating in India. India-France CEOs Forum will also take place during Macron’s visit.

On Sunday, Macron and Modi will be jointly chairing a summit meeting of the International Solar Alliance which will be attended by 25 heads of state. Macron will also be visiting Agra and Varanasi. Macron will get a special cruise on the Ganges with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Macron will also be meeting a cross-section of Indian students as well as academics during his stay in India.

France, like much of Europe and the West, sees India as a natural diplomatic and economic partner in Asia because of its role as the world’s biggest democracy and its huge yet still untapped business potential. Macron is set to announce plans to allow Indian navy ships to use French bases in the southern Indian Ocean where New Delhi remains wary of Chinese expansion in an area that it sees as its strategic backyard. France has two million citizens living in the Indian Ocean region, has territories in the Indian Ocean region as well as economic interests and naval bases.

Though India and France relations are becoming strong the Trade is small trade between India and France in 2016-17 fiscal reached $10.95 billion. France is the ninth largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of $6.09 billion from April 2000 to October 2017.

On Counter Terrorism President said in his interview that “One of the threats for you will be the return of jihadis from the Iraq-Syria region. One of the main common interests we have is to cooperate in this area,” he said. “They attacked France several times, and they will now decide to go back, take refuge in your region. It’s very important to cooperate very concretely, in terms of exchange of intelligence, increase cooperation in counterterrorism.

At last one can say that India and France relations are becoming Natural and Real. FTA, Defence Ties, Technology Transfer can drive the relations stronger. During the President visit not only strong manufacturing and technology partnerships but also greater people to people contacts especially through greater exchanges of students and researchers will take place.

The Indian community, including NRIs in mainland France, number around 110,000 and largely hail from the French enclaves of Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Chandernagore. Notwithstanding all this, longer term strategic considerations do not sufficiently shape our policies towards France. As one Analyst had put Lack of political instruction, bureaucratic decision making, limited media, academic and think-tank exposure to each other is harming the relations going further. French President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted France to supplant Britain as New Delhi`s partner of choice in Europe, as he embarked on a four-day tour of India. For now, India and France are moving strong.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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TS Chandrashekar is the Deputy Director of a state-funded trade organisation.

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