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New era of India-France ties

  • Published
    14th Jul, 2023
Context

Prime Minister of India is going to be the Guest of Honour at France’s Bastille Day parade in Paris.

  • The visit coincides with 25 years of the oldest among India’s almost 30 strategic partnerships around the world —since the two nations committed themselves to it in 1998.

France commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. This event marked the start of the French Revolution, during which the monarchy was overthrown and a more democratic government established.

India-France Relations:

  • Background:
    • France was the first country to recognise the strategic importance of India after the nuclear tests in 1998.
    • The partnership with France is India’s most important strategic partnership in Europe.
  • Recent developments:
    • Technological exchange: They will sight agreements on the acquisition of;
      • 26 Rafale-M (the marine version) fighters for the Indian Navy, and
      • Co-production of three more Scorpene class submarines at the public sector Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd,
      • Six Scorpene/Kalvari-class submarines.
    • For Environment: The two sides also cooperate closely on climate change initiatives.
    • Last October, they signed a Road Map on Green Hydrogen, which aims “to bring the French and Indian hydrogen ecosystems together” to establish a reliable and sustainable value chain for a global supply of decarbonised hydrogen.
    • For Trade and commerce: An MoU signed in June 2023, between NPCI International Payments Limited (NIPL) and Lyra, a France-based payment services provider, is going to get implemented soon to enable UPI and RuPay payments in Europe.

France, India and the World:

  • Both India and France value their strategic autonomy, pursue independence in their foreign policies, and seek a multipolar world, even as both acknowledge the place and importance of the US in the world order.
  • However, France recently went for a three-day state visit to Beijing where he had long meetings with President Xi Jinping is seen as a strategic move.
  • France has also too stood for Europe’s security dependence on the US and the “extraterritoriality of the dollar” could turn European states into “vassals” if the US-China confrontation escalated.

Importance of France for India:

  • France support & similar views on China: India remains hopeful that differences over the war in Ukraine will not block a positive outcome.
    • The visit could provide an opportunity for the Prime Minister to understand better the French and European assessment of the war, and be prepared to take “tough decisions” with regard to forging consensus at the G20 summit.
  • To overcome lacks amid Russia-Ukraine conflict: Due to Russia’s uncertain stand on India’s defence and technology deals amid war, France can become a strategic partner to India.
  • India can harness France potential for Technology and military: France could be an important partner for building maritime domain awareness and keep an eye on China’s presence in the region, augmenting New Delhi’s participation in the Quad.

Existing Bilateral Partnership:

  • Institutional Dialogue relating to strategic areas - India and France have a range of regular institutional dialogue - India-France Strategic Dialogue takes place between NSAs from both sides, Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism (led at the level of Additional Secretary (CT), MEA), Cyber Dialogue (led at the level of Additional Secretary (IO), MEA), Track 1.5 Dialogue (led by Joint Secretary (PP&R), MEA) etc.
  • Space Cooperation - India and France have a rich history of cooperation in the field of space going back to fifty years with ISRO and the French Space Agency, CNES carrying on various joint research programmes and launch of satellites. The jointly developed MeghaTropiques satellite which observes clouds and water vapours over the tropical region continues to be in good health and providing valuable scientific data. A joint Ka-band propagation experiment is also under implementation.
  • Civil Nuclear Cooperation - A landmark agreement on civil nuclear cooperation was signed between India and France in 2008. Subsequently, the General Framework Agreement and the Early Works Agreement for the implementation of EPR for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) were signed. Regular negotiations are going on towards finalization of a General Framework Agreement on other project-related parameters.
  • Economic Cooperation - A Joint Economic Committee exists at the level of Ministers of Commerce and Foreign Trade from both sides. Also several bilateral joint working groups in various fields like IT & Telecommunications, roads, sustainable Urban Development, Agriculture and Food Processing, Energy (International solar alliance)etc. exists.
  • Cultural Cooperation -It is estimated that the Indian community, including NRIs in mainland France number around 106,000, largely originating from French enclaves of Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Chandernagore. Thus, Indian culture enjoys wide admiration among the people of France.
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