Why India-France ties are strong, what’s the significance of PM Modi’s visit

Why India-France ties are strong, what’s the significance of PM Modi’s visit

Context- Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Guest of Honour at France’s Bastille Day parade in Paris on Friday. The visit coincided with 25 years of the oldest among India’s almost 30 strategic partnerships  around the world — and one of the few that has been marked by “total convergence” ever since the two nations committed themselves to it in 1998.

(Credits- Hindustan Times)

A special partnership

  • The two countries commenced their strategic partnership, India’s first, immediately after India’s nuclear tests, at a time when most Western capitals had turned their backs on New Delhi.
  • 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. It is one of the rare such partnerships that India has that is marked by total convergence.
  • D B Venkatesh Varma, a former Ambassador to Russia, described India and France as “mirror images of each other” in their common quest for strategic autonomy in the midst of big power play.
  • At critical points, France has stood by India, including during the civil nuclear negotiations with the US, when President Jacques Chirac, on his visit to India in February 2006, sent a strong message to President George W Bush that India should not be boxed into a corner
  • According to the French foreign ministry, the partnership “focuses on…civil nuclear energy, defence, counter-terrorism, space cooperation, cyber security and digital technologies”.

Defence, climate, tech

  • The defence relationship, a critical element in ties, is marked by trust and reliability. While defence deals with the US are dogged by unpredictability due to Congressional interventions and export control regimes, the French deals come with no strings attached. France understands that India would not like to put all its defence eggs in one basket.
  • The PM’s visit is likely to see agreements or announcements 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, which has already produced six Scorpene/Kalvari-class submarines under an earlier agreement.
  • As talk of the US-India deal on technology transfer for the GE F414 jet engine for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft became louder earlier this year, the French offered their own Safran engine that would be fully made in India.
  • While the US offer, which signalled a major breakthrough in India-US defence ties, does not include the transfer of a critical part of the technology, the French are said to have promised 100 per cent technology transfer.
  • 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.
  • Another roadmap on digital technology co-operation may be on the cards for 6G, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. An MoU signed last month between NPCI International Payments Limited (NIPL) and Lyra, a France-based payment services provider, may be implemented soon to enable UPI and RuPay payments in Europe.

France, India, 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.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the geopolitical changes it triggered have brought a new European awareness of the strategic importance of India and vice versa. As India’s foremost partner in Europe, France, with its more nuanced view of the war than most other countries in the continent, has a better appreciation than other European states of New Delhi’s position on the war, including that the world has to make serious diplomatic efforts to restore peace.
  • French support will also be critical to a consensus outcome at the G20 summit in New Delhi this September. India remains hopeful that differences over the war in Ukraine will not block a positive outcome.
  • As the the only EU state with territories in the Indo-Pacific, 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.

Conclusion- France is India’s oldest strategic partner, and the relationship has almost no friction points. Both nations value their strategic autonomy, independent foreign policies, and seek a multipolar world.

Syllabus- GS-2; International Relations

Source- Indian Express