President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India is set to strengthen bilateral cooperation, especially in defence, space and civil nuclear cooperation. The Joint Vision Statement on the Indian Ocean Region is aimed at tackling the Chinese menace in the region
If there is one Country in the world which has stood with India understanding its strategic, security and international aspect in Europe or Asia or Americas, it is France. When the world forced for sanctions on India after the 1998 nuclear tests, France refused to impose bilateral or any sanctions on us. It has not intruded itself into our relations with our neighbors and ceased arming Pakistan years ago.
India France Strategic Partnership stands in defence, space and civil nuclear cooperation. They constitute the three principal pillars. Apart from these traditional fields of cooperation, India and France are increasingly engaged in new areas of cooperation like climate change, sustainable growth and development, the International Solar Alliance etc. Seven bilateral joint working groups in various fields exist which are: (i) IT & Telecommunications; (ii) Roads; (iii) Sustainable Urban Development; (iv) Agriculture and Food Processing; (v) Mineral Exploration and Development; (vi) Energy; and (vii) Post.
The governments of India and France signed as many as 14 agreements aimed to boost the bilateral relations between the two countries. Here is the list:
Both India and France have important bilateral investments and trade and commercial cooperation. Almost 1000 French companies are present in India with a total turnover of US$ 20 billion and employing 300,000 people in India. French companies have more than 25 R&D centres in India.
France is the ninth largest foreign investor in India with cumulative investment of US$ 5.15 billion from April 2000 to May 2016 which represents 1.5 per cent of the total FDI inflows in India. In France, about 120 Indian companies are present with an estimated investment stock of Euro one billion and employing 7000 people.
President Emmanuel Macron is leading the EU after Brexit and the weakening leadership of Angela Merkel. He was in India for a four-day-visit (March 9 to 12) “The visit of President Macron is aimed at strengthening the bilateral economic, political and strategic dimensions of our engagement”, the MEA said in a statement. Reffering to the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft, the French President said, “I wasn”t part of it, but I have to say the negotiations were a win-win situation for both of us. A large part of the production will now be in India, so the interests of the industry and workers were very well defended.”
President Macron was accompanied by CEOs of almost all top French defence firms. Both sides discussed the long pending free trade agreement between India and European Union, including the bilateral investment treaty that has become a cause of concern for some of the French companies operating in India. On March 11, Macron and Modi jointly chaired a summit meeting of the International Solar Alliance which was attended by 25 heads of states. Macron also visited Agra and Varanasi and met a
cross-section of Indian students and academicians.
France, like most of Europe and the West, sees India as a natural diplomatic and economic partner in Asia because of its role as the world’s biggest democracy and its huge yet still untapped business potential. Macron announced plans to allow Indian navy ships to use French bases in the southern Indian Ocean where New Delhi remains wary of Chinese expansion in an area that it sees as its strategic backyard. France has two million citizens living in the Indian Ocean region, has territories in the Indian Ocean region as well as economic interests and naval bases.
As an Analyst had put it, lack of political instruction, bureaucratic decision making, limited media, academic and think-tank exposure to each other is harming the relations going further. French President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted France to supplant Britain as New Delhi`s partner of choice in Europe, as he embarked on a four-day tour of India. For now India and France are moving strong.
(The author is Deputy Director Korea
Trade office and an expert in