25 years of the India-France Strategic Partnership
Syllabus: GS2/ India & Foreign Relations
- India and France are celebrating 25 years of strategic partnership.
- 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 the 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 fulfilled the 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).
- In the recent visit by Indian PM, there were also the decisions,
- In principle, to buy 26 more Rafale fighter jets off-the-shelf (Rafale-M), this time for the Indian Navy;
- Three more Scorpene submarines in continuation to the purchases of 2008, and
- An agreement between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Safran for helicopter engines.
- 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.
- Horizon 2047:
- Chief among the recent agreements was the strategic road map for the next 25 years — “Horizon 2047” — which includes cooperation in defence, space, nuclear energy, climate change and green transitions as well as education and people-to-people ties.
Significance of India-France Ties
- Respecting strategic autonomy:
- France-India strategic relationship is built on a respect for each other’s strategic autonomy.
- While France has taken a leading role in the western pushback to Russia’s war in Ukraine, it has not joined other western countries in publicly exhorting India to change its stand.
- In 1974, and in 1998, France did not join the western push to sanction India for its nuclear tests either; it even stepped in with uranium supplies to power the Tarapur reactors.
- Non interference in the internal affairs:
- France has remained steadfast in its refusal to comment on India’s internal affairs or its foreign policy choices.
- Modi’s visit was also at around the same time that the European Parliament decided to adopt a resolution criticising his government for the violence in Manipur and alleged violations of human rights and freedom of religion issues.
- Yet, none of these issues was discussed or brought up.
- India too, made no mention of the violence in France after the killing of a teenager belonging to the Algerian immigrant community.
- 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.
- Maintaining bilateral relationship:
- Further, neither country has any desire to pull the other into a coalition, grouping or alliance the other is a part of, and both seem content with the success in forging the relationship bilaterally.
- Both countries share concerns over the rise of China and its aggressive behaviour, regionally and globally, and have committed to working together to ensure that there is no imbalance in the Indo-Pacific.
- France is strong enough to have something to offer on the diplomatic, military, space, and nuclear sectors to India, but not strong enough to shape international order, norms, or rules, or to balance China if tensions escalate.
- Having no real substantive disagreements between the two nations is rare in international relations.
- There is a trade imbalance between India and France, even though both countries are strategic partners of each other.
- In the above and many other ways, their relationship has proven itself to be different from the other major partnerships that India has built across the world, explaining both the symbolism and the substance of the Prime Minister’s visit.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] In what aspect India’s relationship with France is different from the other major partnerships that India has built across the world? Examine the significance of their relationship in the Indo-Pacific region.