Francois Hollande as the chief guest on the Republic Day, a well thought move of Prime Minister Modi to cement the ties with France.
Inviting a foreign guest on the Republic Day is the best honour for any foreign dignitary, Bharat can accord. This clearly shows building a stronger tie with France. Therefore, inviting Francois Hollande as the chief guest on the Republic Day, a well thought move of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cement the ties with France. Modi and Hollande are ideologically tilted in different directions, but they are very pragmatic. There are many ways Bharat and France share the commonalities of the world politics. France has remained one of the most reliable partners for Bharat in strategic terms. Hollande was accompanied by about 50 French business leaders, most of them involved in energy, transport and urban infrastructure. Bharat is Asia’s third largest economy with predicted growth of 7.5 per cent in 2015-2016. Hollande and Modi have jointly announced a roadmap for French companies building six nuclear reactors in western Maharashtra state – more than five years after a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed. They have also signed many other business proposals. This visit of the French President proved to be very important for bilateral ties. France has also promised support for Bharat’s clean-energy quest, including a solar energy alliance launched last month during the global climate talks held in Paris. Bharatiya PM Modi said, “Our bilateral relationship with France is very comprehensive. It covers a number of sectors such as defence, civil nuclear cooperation, railways, smart cities, science and research, space and culture.”
France and World Politics
France has been different altogether from western imagination of world politics. After World War II, the French were never comfortable with the United States dominating the world order. This was unlike the United Kingdom, which found its power much diminished and played second fiddle to the US. The British gave away their strategic interests in the Gulf and West Asia to the US when they couldn’t afford to maintain these. The French never did that. They retained their little pockets of influence, particularly in Africa which had a large number of French colonies. France has quite often raised its voice and anger against the US led world politics. The French have never been comfortable with the US-led and British-helped Anglo-Saxon world order. They were the only country to openly oppose the US invasion of Iraq. After the Cold War, the French worked towards shaping a multi-polar world order. They have been highly supportive of Bharat’s role in the region and its strategic autonomy. France also had different view on Afghanistan. After the nuclear tests by Bharat, France had a reconciliatory approach and very supportive role in favour of Bharat.
Bharat and France reiterate the need for urgent reform of the United Nations, including its Security Council, through an expansion in both categories of membership, to make it more representative of the contemporary world. France reaffirmed its support for Bharateeya candidature for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council. The two countries welcomed the forward movement on the issue of United Nations reforms to the stage of text-based negotiations and the important role played by France in this process. The two leaders welcomed the constructive discussions at the recent bilateral consultations on UN issues on 22 January 2016 and welcomed the convergence of views on major regional & international issues.
Bharat and France reiterated their commitment to counter terrorism and welcomed the separate joint statement on Counter-terrorism cooperation issued by the two sides. The President of France and the Prime Minister of Bharat agreed to intensify cooperation between the Bharateeya and French security forces in the fields of homeland security, cyber security, Special Forces and intelligence-sharing to fight against criminal networks and tackle the common threat of terrorism. They looked forward to early conclusion of an Agreement on Prevention of Consumption of Illicit Drugs & Psychotropic Substances between the two countries and expressed hope that cooperation in this field will also lead to the disruption of terrorist financing structures.
The Leaders stressed the importance of joint military exercises. They welcomed the successful air exercise Translating their shared commitment to clean energy and combating climate change into practical action, President Hollande and PM Modi jointly launched the new International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiative in Paris on November 30, 2015 on the sidelines of the COP 21. To advance this initiative, the two leaders jointly laid the foundation stone of the building for Headquarters of International Solar Alliance (ISA) and inaugurated the interim Secretariat of the ISA in Gurgaon, Bharat, on January 25, 2016. Reaffirming their commitment to enhance the use of solar energy globally, the leaders underlined the importance of deepening cooperation both bilaterally and under the aegis of ISA in joint research, development, financing and technology innovation as well as diffusion of clean energy and efficiency solutions that will help in promoting energy access in a clean, affordable and sustainable manner.
Fight against IS
Islamic terrorism has been pinching for both the countries. France has been repeatedly attacked by Islamic organisations. The ISIS is spanning in both the countries. The chunk of population in both the countries is Muslim. There has been a strong structure of secular polity and democracy. The two countries face “similar threats” from “religious fundamentalists who attack us”, Hollande told the Press Trust of India, referring to last year’s Paris attacks. As much as 10 per cent of the 60-million population of France is Muslim, largely from the French old colonies in Africa. The French have always prided themselves on their approach to secularism, which is different from the “melting pot” approach of the UK where migrant communities congregate in specific areas like Southall. In France, religion is strictly the private affair of an individual. There has been a strict separation between the church and the state for over a century now. The French have pursued a policy of assimilation.
The joint ventures between the two countries become more important, since the world powers are divided on ISIS threat. The Russia and US perceptions are glaring examples. The multi-lateral structures are in disarray. Therefore, joint statement between the two leaders has given a strong message how to fight the evils of the world. The Paris conference on climate change was such an example. The world needs to repeat the same temper against fighting the terrorism.
Dr Satish Kumar (The writer is Head Centre for International Relations, Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi)