Syllabus: GS2/ India & Foreign Relations
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attending the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris as the guest of honour.
- The visit coincides with 25 years of the oldest among India’s almost 30 strategic partnerships around the world.
The Bastille Day military parade
- France is India’s oldest strategic partner, and the relationship has almost no friction points.
- 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.
- Trade & Commerce:
- France has emerged as a key trading partner of India with annual trade of $12.42 billion in 2021-22.
- France is the 11th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of $10.31 billion in past two decades, which represents 1.70% of the total foreign direct investment inflows into India.
- The defence relationship is robust, and is set to get stronger.
- France has emerged as a key defence partner for India, becoming the second largest defence supplier in 2017- 2021.
- France is a major strategic partner for India with crucial defence deals and increased military to military engagement. Some of the examples are:
- Induction of the French Scorpene conventional submarines, being built in India under technology transfer agreement of 2005,
- The Indian Air Force’s fulfilled order of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
- The Tata group’s tie-up with Airbus to manufacture C-295 tactical transport aircraft in Vadodara, Gujarat.
- These relations are further fortified with the robust network of military dialogues and regularly held joint exercises — Varuna (navy), Garuda (air force), and Shakti (army).
- Climate Change:
- India has supported France in the Paris Agreement expressing its strong commitment towards mitigating climate change impact.
- New Delhi and Paris, as part of their joint efforts on climate change, launched the International Solar Alliance in 2015.
- Road Map on Green Hydrogen:
- The two sides also cooperate closely on climate change initiatives. Recently 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.
- “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region” presents a blueprint for a strengthening of ties like Franco-Indian joint patrolling in the Indian Ocean.
- India and France agreed to set up an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund that will support innovative solutions for countries in the region.
- The two partners have formed a trilateral grouping with the United Arab Emirates to ensure security from the east coast of Africa to the far Pacific.
Significance of the upcoming visit by Indian PM
- Opportunities of visit:
- 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.
- Chosen over Defence deals with USA:
- While defence deals with the US are dogged by unpredictability due to Congressional interventions and export control regimes, the French deals come with no such conditions.
- 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.
- Digital technology co-operation:
- Another roadmap on digital technology co-operation may be on the cards for 6G, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.
- Common grounds for cooperation:
- 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.
- Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific:
- As 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.
- 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.
- 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 “individual decisions” with regard to forging consensus at the G20 summit.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] What is the significance of India’s strategic relationship with France? What are their common grounds of cooperation especially in the Indo-Pacific region?