- Key takeaways from Prime Minister’s visit to France
- India-France relations
- Significance of France for India
- Filling the gap between India and Russia
- France’s support to India for getting permanent seat in UNSC
- Areas of caution
[RSTV The Big Picture] India, France Ties
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- Prime Minister of India recently visited France on an official visit. On this visits, France backed India getting a permanent seat in the UN Security Council as the two countries expressed their resolve towards freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific.
- Both countries supported an inclusive peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
- On Iran, they agreed that full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian Nuclear Programme and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 was needed to ensure regional and international peace and security.
- They also vowed to fight against violent and hateful content online as they affirmed their commitment to an open and reliable cyberspace.
Key takeaways from Prime Minister’s visit to France
- Many issues such as artificial intelligence, cybercrime and Indo-Pacific were discussed.
- The French President said that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir issue bilaterally and no third party should interfere or incite violence in the region.
- France also backed India getting a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
- In the last 10-15 years, the relation with France, in defense, trade investment, Indian Ocean maritime security, cyber security etc. has improved tremendously.
- Today, among the 35 international strategic partnerships that India have, the first international strategic partnership was signed with France in 1998.
- France is always prepared to take sides with India. For instance, France, under the tripartite agreement between India, US and France, agreed to supply needed fuel and spare parts to the Tarapur Atomic Power Station.
- There were also rarely any comments from France which are irritating for India, and even if they do make comments on India, they think critically before doing that.
- France has followed an independent foreign policy in Europe. It has, in many occasion, took stance in support of Indian policy in the difficult moments when Britain used alleged acts of diplomatic sleights and duplicity in their pursuit of self-interest. Hence, the relation with France is much better than with Britain.
- Both India and France are focusing on Africa. India is now third largest partner of Africa after China and European Union. A large portion of the African continent is francophone countries (French speaking countries). These are the African state in which India has weakest presence. For instance, Indian recently opened 18 new embassies, out of which 13 is in francophone countries as India didn’t have any presence.
Significance of France for India
- France has its owns islands in Indian ocean and has about a million French citizens living in Indian ocean region.
- Moreover, Given the rise of Chinese military in the Indian ocean and India’s unpreparedness to tackle china, France is the only country having physical military and economic power in Indian Ocean.
- France is one of the few countries which have indigenous nuclear reactor capacity, in which India is interested. On the other side, France also needs a larger economic partner in Asia. It needs external markets for its weapons and nuclear reactors.
- France has only about five or six billion dollars of foreign investment in India. However, a lot of French companies raise their capital using Indian capital markets, which adds to the total of about 25 billion dollars’ worth of FDI by France, which makes it a very large economic player in India.
- France used to provide weapons to Pakistan. For example, the entire submarine fleet of Pakistan is French. However, only one of them is currently functioning as spare parts of other submarines have been denied by France.
- During a 2018 visit to Australia, France President stated his desire to create a strategic alliance between France, Australia and India, in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Overall, the recent political turbulence in Germany, non-supportive nature of Russia, the Open hostile nature of China and Decreasing influence of Britain on Europe due to Brexit situation indicates that there is only France with which India can partner with.
Filling the gap between India and Russia
- Over the past five years, French government has deliberately positioned itself with the argument to the Indian side that Russia, who has been most dependable P5 nation in UNSC voting mechanism, is now increasingly undependable due to the Russia’s increasing closeness to china as well as Russia’s capacitates are also reducing.
- In fact, Russia’s GDP is now half of India’s and lot of Russia’s defence mechanism are now
- Hence, except some economic issue, India can no longer depend on Russia on all major matters such as issue of Afghanistan.
- In addition, India have increasing relationship with US. However, one cannot be sure that US’s interest in one area can aid India’s interest in the same domain.
- Given these circumstances, the gap generated by Russian dependency is definitely being filled by France.
France’s support to India for getting permanent seat in UNSC
- France has openly supported India in getting permeant seat at UNSC, both bilaterally and even at multilateral forums.
- However, it is unlikely that India will get permeant set in near future.
- One of the reason is that the current permanent members will not allow that unless they are compell to do so, which is unlikely in near future.
- India should continue to raise this issue in G4 (Japan, Germany, India and Brazil). However, the hinterlands of the G4 countries are not united. Even if G4 agrees on India’s permeant seats, Brazil will be opposed by Argentina.
- India will also be opposed by Pakistan. Moreover, Nigeria and South Africa also wants permanent seats.
- The P5+1 countries (UN Security Council’s five permanent members: China, France, Russia, UK, US plus Germany) knows that the unity among them in giving permeant status to any another country is virtually impossible.
- One of the area which needs attention is Immigration. There is very small Indian diaspora in France and very limited number of students in France.
- France has a number of very good technologies such as nuclear submarine technologies much better than Russia’s. However, Russia have at least been willing to give it while France still has legal hassles of doing so and have yet to break some of the defence barriers. Hence, India-France should focus on mitigation of these barriers.
- For past few years, India has believed that Europe is mostly important because of economic matters as European capacities and interests in these matters are limited. However, in areas such as counter terrorism, de-radicalization, countries within Europe are becoming useful partner for each other. Hence, India can now partner with European countries in these matters also.
- Another belief that was held by India was that European countries are working according to the US, due to strong trans-Atlantic partnerships. However, they are also looking for an independent role. Hence, it is a good opportunity for India, particularly after Brexit, to develop relations with France.
Areas of caution
- The recent joint statement issued after talks between India and France did not mention the free trade agreement (FTA). Hence, it needs to be focused on as core of relationship with France is on economic front.
- France and other European countries are very sensitive to human right violations. Even a slightest human right violation in the recent Jammu & Kashmir (Abrogation of Article 370) situation might result in less support from France.
- A friend like France, bilaterally as well as in multilateral fora, is something that Indian foreign policy must nurture.
- As such, there are no areas of concern between India and France, but even if the differences results in disputes, the safety factor behind such dispute are the underlying friendly relations between both nations.