India France Relationship – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

India France Relationship has continued to move forward on a steady and clear course. India’s External Affairs Minister recently remarked that, “India’s ties with France are based on a great sense of trust and it is a relationship that has been free from sudden shifts and surprises seen in other cases.” The Prime Minister of India recently concluded a visit to France. The visit provided a crucial opportunity to survey the international strategic landscape and take stock of the bilateral India France relationship.

What has been the evolution of India France relationship?

India and France have traditionally close and friendly relations. The relationship has been positive since India’s independence. Since the 1960s, French aircraft and helicopters have been part of the Indian air fleet (Ouragan, Mystere, Alize, Alouette, Jaguar etc.). In 1984, the US had backed out of agreement to supply nuclear fuel for Tarapur nuclear plant citing domestic legal constraints. France had stepped in then to supply nuclear fuel. 

France has also supported India’s space programme since its inception. France helped in setting up the Sriharikota launch site and shared the Centaure and Viking rocket technologies in the 1970s. Though the relationship was constrained by Cold War, France had proved to be one of the most reliable partner in the West in the cold-war era.

In 1998, the two countries entered into Strategic Partnership which is emblematic of their convergence of views on a range of International issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship. Since than the domains of cooperation have expanded. The strategic partnership is anchored on the solid bedrock of deep and consistent mutual trust, abiding faith in strategic autonomy, unwavering commitment to international law; and belief in a multipolar world shaped by reformed and effective multilateralism. Both are committed to the shared values of democracy, fundamental freedoms, rule of law and respect for human rights. 

The areas of Defense & Security cooperation, Space cooperation and Civil nuclear cooperation constitute the principal pillars of our Strategic Partnership with France. 

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What are the recent developments in India France relationship?

Strategic: India and France are close strategic partners. France was one of the first countries that accommodated India’s position after the 1998 Nuclear Tests. France supported India’s political and security compulsions vis-a-vis the nuclear weapons. Further, France has backed India’s permanent candidature at UN Security Council as well as the G8. In addition, France is also part of India-France-Australia Trilateral Dialogue that supports free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

Security: India and France regularly conduct joint military exercises. These include Varuna (Naval), Garuda (Air Force) and Shakti (Army). Both countries have also undertaken ‘joint patrolling’ in the Indian Ocean Region to back their stance of open Indo-Pacific. Both are striving towards maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean region. Further, France has emerged as India’s second largest arms supplier after Russia. Major military equipment imported from France include the Rafale and Mirage 2000 Fighter Aircraft and Scorpene Submarines.

Read More: India, France agree to expand partnership in defence, security

Science and Technology: India and France share strategic partnership in the space domain. Both concluded a Joint Vision for Space Cooperation in 2018. They are also cooperating in satellite navigation and related technologies. India and France are jointly constructing the world’s largest nuclear park in Jaitapur, Maharashtra.

Energy: French support played an important role in India getting an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in 2008 to resume international cooperation in civil nuclear energy. France actively supports India’s entry in to the NSG. Further, India and France played a pivotal role in creating the International Solar Alliance.

Trade: Both India and France have important bilateral investments & trade and commercial cooperation.

From January to December 2021 (CY2021), the India-France bilateral trade in goods (excluding military equipment) stood at € 12.58 billion. India’s exports to France were valued at € 6.70 billion while Indian imports from France stood at € 5.88 billion. The bilateral services trade (CY2020) stood at € 4.76 billion.

France has emerged as a major source of FDI for India with more than 1,000 French establishments already present in India with a total turnover of US$ 20 billion and employing around 300,000 persons.  France is the 11th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of US$ 10.6 billion between April 2000-December 2021.

Diaspora: It is estimated that the Indian community, including NRIs in mainland France number around 109,000, largely originating from French enclaves of Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Chandernagore. A Sizable number of Indian-origin population lives in the French Overseas Territories of Reunion Island (280,000), Guadeloupe (60,000), Martinique (6,000) and Saint Martin (300).

Read More: India and France: A deepening friendship
What is the significance of the India France relationship?

Securing the Indo-Pacific: India will require the support of France for maintaining the stability and security of the Indo-Pacific region and countering the growing Chinese aggression. The Indian Ocean holds importance for France as it controls the Reunion Islands. Both countries have concluded a Joint Strategic Vision for cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region in 2018.

High Degree of Trust: France has stood by India through thick and thin, beginning with 1998 when India conducted nuclear tests. Both nations share a high degree of mutual trust that allows them to cooperate on bilateral and multilateral issues.

Entry to Key Organizations: France’s support will be crucial to India’s entry into the UNSC and the NSG.

Tackling Climate Change: The cooperation between them can be helpful to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and in implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Global Stability: Cooperation between the two can help in checking Russia’s assertiveness in Europe and China’s assertiveness in Asia, thereby ensuring global stability and world order.

What are the challenges in the relationship?

Stalled Projects: Many projects that have been negotiated between the countries have not been operationalized. For instance, the Jaitapur nuclear project has been stalled and is facing a lot of domestic impediments.

Free Trade with EU: Despite having good relations, France and India don’t have a free trade agreement between them. Further, no progress is being made on the India-EU Broad based Trade and Investment agreement (BTIA) as well.

Different stand on Russia Ukraine conflict: France has openly criticized the Russian invasion. India has a more restrained stance on the conflict. The difference in the response hasn’t impacted their bilateral relationship till now. However if the conflict gets prolonged, then it might impact the India France relationship as well.

Operating at low potential: 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.

What lies ahead?

First, India can leverage its good relations with France and convert the idea of India-EU BTIA into reality. 

Second, both the Indian PM and the French President have a good relationship with the President of Russia. Therefore, they can jointly work to bring the war in Europe to an end

Third, both countries should create better options for small countries in the Indo-Pacific region and enable them to make sovereign and free choices. They should neither be subjected to domination nor caught in a binary power rivalry.

Fourth, a joint working group can be created to expeditiously complete the stalled projects by duly addressing the reasons hindering their completion. 

Fifth, India and France are fully committed to pursuing the implementation of the Partnership Agreement on Migration and Mobility, which entered into force on 1 October 2021. Both sides will continue to work jointly to increase the mobility of students, graduates, professionals and skilled workers while strengthening their efforts to combat irregular migration.

Conclusion

The current visit of the Indian PM to France reflects the strong strategic partnership which the two countries deeply value and share. India and France have excellent bilateral ties, which are reinforced by a shared vision to cooperate for further enhancing peace and prosperity for the two countries and the world at large.

Source: Indian Express, Indian Express, MEA

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