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All India Radio (AIR) : India-France Bilateral Relations

  • September 11, 2017
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All India Radio
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India-France bilateral relations

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TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Relations between India and France have traditionally been close and friendly. With the establishment of strategic partnership in 1998, there has been a significant progress in all areas of bilateral cooperation. Over past few years, India France relation have developed a lot in strategic and economic areas. It is one of the most significant visit of Indian PM to France because it comes on the heels of President Trump’s visit to Europe which was not well-received as he backed out of Paris climate change agreement.

On climate change

India has always stood for green planet and has committed to stand by the climate change agreement. This means a lot to France as it shares similar concerns about global warming.

US, one of the biggest emitter wants to walk out of the deal, and India which is considered to be a comparatively lesser emitter is saying that it will stick the deal and also go beyond it.

There is a speculation that if USA is moving out of Paris agreement, could the new leaders of new millennium being Europe along with India and china take the leadership role.

India’s commitment to go beyond given direction and going towards different energy sources shows that India wished to move beyond the accord.

On Terrorism

There was a time when it was a general perception that Europe is a safe place. Europe has realised that its soil is no longer immune to terror. Europe is also facing constant terrorist attacks. Thus, both countries have reaffirmed their joint commitment to combat terrorism. There already exists a joint working group to cooperate on combating international terrorism. PM’s presence in Paris goes a long way in ensuring that in Europe’s fight against terrorism, India is a strategic ally.

Similarly, India counts on Europe to give necessary support when India goes to UNSC to block terrorist funding. India hops that France will pressure china to act in an appropriate manner.

Solar alliance meet

India started having annual summits with France and Germany from 2000. It was also the time when India started annual summit with EU. Solar summit will be taking place by end of 2017.

It is important for India as it demonstrates India’s commitment for solar energy in future. The whole search to make it cheaper and easily available is what Europe fully supports.

Economic ties

India is selling itself hard with the 7% GDP growth and improved ranking of ease of doing business. But the economic relationship has been below potential so far.

India hopes that France will start to consider India as good economic partner as they consider china. So far India has struggled with EU perception that no matter how India is strategically related to European countries, as far as trade and business is concerned, India comes at second place after China.

Also, India-EU summit gives important opportunity for EU to forge an India-EU FTA which has been pending since 2007 because of certain issues relating to protectionism on EU side and India’s reluctance to open the domestic industries and sectors that are not yet matured enough to be part of global competition. EU expects a breakthrough since the present Indian government is committed to free trade.

Strategic

In recent years, India has entered into more than three dozen “strategic partnerships”, but France remains the original one. Today, the strategic dialogue has became institutionalised at the level of the National Security Advisers. The agenda has also expanded to include counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and cyber-security issues, in addition to the original nuclear, space and defence related matters.

France was the first country with which India conducted a joint naval exercise called ‘Varun’ after the 1998 nuclear tests; our two countries have continued to hold this exercise over the years.

Defence

Though defence cooperation between the two countries goes back to 1950s and 60s — in the 50s France had provided 104 Ouragan aircraft to the Indian Air Force, rechristened “toofani” by India — the decision to embark on a strategic partnership in 1998 led to the establishment of a High Committee on Defence Cooperation. Now, there is huge presence of France in this sector. France expects opening of greater FDI opportunities into India’s defence sector.

France’s steadfastness as a military ally contrasts strongly with that of the United States, which has not been the most reliable supplier of military items and technologies. It vetoed or slowed components for the Light Combat Aircraft that India is developing and imposed an arms embargo on India following the 1998 nuclear tests. There are similar apprehensions about Germany’s reliability as a partner, as under German law, delivery of weapons and spare parts are prohibited to a country at war.

Conclusion

French stood by India after Pokhran and have been supportive of India’s civil nuclear capabilities. It has been supportive on NSG, nuclear cooperation, energy defence. Also, there is bright future of focus on innovation and education along with economic upward growth in recent years.

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