India-France Relationship

Context: Recently, the Indian Prime Minister arrived in Paris on a two-day official visit. Significance of France for India
  • Thriving Relationship: Year 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of India-France strategic partnership.
    • Two countries cooperate closely across various domains, including defence, space, civil nuclear, blue economy, trade, investment, education, culture and people-to-people ties.
  • Strong Global Supporter: France was the first country to recognise the strategic importance of India after the nuclear tests in 1998. The partnership with France is India’s most important strategic partnership in Europe.
  • Trade and commerce: France emerged as a key trading partner for India.
    • The annual trade volume reached $12.42 billion in 2021-22, and France stands as the 11th largest foreign investor in India, with a cumulative investment of $10.31 billion over the past two decades.
  • Role in Defence and Security: French has played an important role in modernising India’s defence industrial base through co-development and co-production of weapons.
    • It became the second-largest defence supplier between 2017 and 2021.
    • Crucial defence deals, such as the induction of French Scorpene submarines and the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets, highlight the depth of their defence cooperation. 
    • Joint military exercises and dialogues, including Varuna, Garuda, and Shakti, further strengthen these ties.
    • Joint Strategic Vision of Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region and a logistic support agreement: It gave the two countries access to each other’s military facilities.
  • Climate: India’s commitment to combating climate change aligns with France’s goals, as demonstrated by their joint efforts under the Paris Agreement and the establishment of the International Solar Alliance in 2015.
  • Space cooperation: With ISRO and CNES conducting numerous cooperative research programmes and satellite launches, India and France have a long history of cooperation in the realm of space that dates back fifty years.
  • Energy sector: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Areva have been in negotiations to develop six EPR (European Pressurised Reactors) nuclear power reactors with a total installed capacity of 9.6 GW since roughly ten years ago.
  • Support in global bodies: France supports India’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. 
  • INdo-Pacific strategy:  France is the only EU state with territories in the Indo-Pacific.
    • France is a part of three regional networks — the Indian Ocean Commission, since 1986, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium since its creation in 2008 and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (created in 1995) since 2020.
  • Keeping check on China: Both countries share concerns over China’s regional and global behaviour and are committed to working together to maintain balance in the Indo-Pacific.
    • Thus, 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.
Future Course of Action: France, India, and the world
  • Both India and France value their strategic autonomy, pursue independence in their foreign policies, and seek a multipolar world.
  • Ukraine war: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the geopolitical changes it triggered have brought a new European awareness (particularly France) of the strategic importance of India and vice versa.
  • On G20 meet in India: French support will also be critical to a consensus outcome at the G20 summit in New Delhi this September.
    • 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 “tough decisions” with regard to forging consensus at the G20 summit.
  • Vision statement for future course: The two sides are expected to come up with a 25-year vision statement for India-France bilateral ties and ambitious outcomes are expected on defence, space, geo-strategy, infrastructure, energy, climate action, museology, student mobility, people to people, sports, culture. Separate joint statements are expected on Indo-Pacific, as well as on the strategic pillar.
Additional Information: Highlight of Visit
  • Bastille Day parade: Indian Prime Minister Narendra is Guest of Honour at France’s Bastille Day parade in Paris.
    • It is a National Day of France, celebrated on July 14, also known as Bastille Day or Fête nationale française, and is marked by a long military parade, along with dancing and other merriment.
    • Significance of the Day: It is the anniversary of Fête de la Fédération, an event held in 1790 to celebrate the unity of the French people.
    • Bastille Day is often seen as the symbol of the end of monarchy, kings and queens continued in France.
    • Tri-service Indian contingent will participate in the military parade. Three aircraft of the Indian Air Force will also perform a flypast during the parade.
  • UPI In France: India and France have agreed to use Unified Payments Interface (UPI) payment mechanism.
    • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is India’s mobile-based payment system and allows people to make round-the-clock payments through a virtual payment address created by the customer.
  • Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour: 
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been conferred with the highest honour of France, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, by French President Emmanuel Macron.
    • The Legion of Honour is organized into five degrees (lower to higher): Knight, Officer, Commander, Grand Officer, and Grand Cross. 
    • It was established by the former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. 
    • The fifth honour went to the PM and PM Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to receive this accolade. 
  • Rafael For Navy: It will be the second such fighter jet purchase from the French aerospace major Dassault Aviation in recent years.
    • In 2016, India inked a deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets for Indian Air Force.
 News Source: The Indian Express

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