What is the background?
India and France became strategic partners in 1998 and this traditional relationship is enduring, like-minded, and all-encompassing. India- France relationship developed into a structured partnership, both at bilateral level as well as in international bodies. France and India have decided to give a new ambition to this partnership by opening it to new areas of cooperation.
In what ways did France support India in security matters?
France has been sanguine about India’s strategic, diplomatic and economic emergence, and steadfastly supports India’s interests in several strategic matters:
- permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council,
- access to civil nuclear cooperation and membership of NSG for energy security and strategic reasons
- Recent Kashmir developments were described as internal to India
- indo-Pacific cooperation
- Invitation to G7 in 2019
Why did the relation gain traction only in the last two decades?
Though France was always sensitive to India’s claim for its global ambitions due to its rich civilization, demographic presence, economic potential, technological advances, internationalist foreign policy and unique pacifism; cold war impeded deepening of the relationship. After the cold war ended with the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991, the relationship progressed through many landmark agreements like Strategic Partnership Agreement 1998 and Civil Nuclear Agreement 2008 for which France gave full support even though it was spearheaded by the USA.
How did the relation progress in recent years?
- Former French president François Hollande was the chief guest for Republic Day celebrations in 2016 making France the only country to be invited a record-setting 5 times to Republic Day celebrations.
- Cooperation in fields of nuclear, space, counter-terrorism, defence, urban affairs, culture etc., grew in recent decades.
- President Emmanuel Macron’s visit in 2018 cemented the regional dimension of the strategic partnership between the two countries.
- France invited India to the G7 summit held in France in August 2019
What are the main areas of the strategic partnership between India and France?
After establishing a strategic partnership in 1998 there has been a significant progress in all areas of bilateral cooperation. Through regular high-level exchanges at the Head of State/Head of Government levels. The growing cooperation and exchanges include strategic areas such as
- On Afghanistan the two countries have identical positions
- They have supported the Iran nuclear deal with a call to resolve issues peacefully through dialogue.
- Joint strategies for Indo-Pacific,
- Nuclear energy and
What is common in our strategic interests?
During cold war period, France was weary of subordinating its foreign policy to that of US’s. India was also pursuing NAM thus not succumbing to either super-powers. After the end of the cold war, both India and France favoured multipolar world order as they were resentful of US hegemony. Both want strategic autonomy. Both want to play a larger role in the world given their economic, nuclear weapon and technological strengths. Indo-Pacific is the new area of commonality. Space, climate and defence are bringing them closer. Fight for global commons like sea lanes, cyber world, peaceful outer space etc.
What additional factors made India cultivate France?
Post-Brexit, France is India’s anchor to the European Union.
Proximity to France does not irritate US. Thus, France is India’s natural partner and a `Goldilocks option’ which is not the case with our relation with Russia.
India- France: Indo-Pacific region
Initially, India was reluctant to join hands with any other power, especially western powers in Indo-Pacific region due to its cold war legacy of NAM. This equation changed with the rise of Chinese clout in the region and simultaneous decline of American hegemony from the region. This prompted India to look for like-minded countries to jointly spearhead the security architecture of the region. Being middle powers and their mutual weariness to hegemonic power projection, India and France began to see each other as natural allies in Indo- Pacific region.
What are French interests in the Indian ocean?
- French islands – Réunion and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean and New Caledonia and French Polynesia in the South Pacific – make France a stakeholder in the region.
- For France, the Indo-Pacific space is a geographic reality. France is present in the region via its overseas territories and 93% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is located in the Indo-Pacific Oceans. The region is home to 1.5 million French people, as well as 8,000 soldiers stationed in the region.
- It has also become a geopolitical and geo-economic reality. The global economy’s centre of gravity has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
- Six members of the G20 (Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea) are located in the region.
- The maritime trade routes linking Europe and the Persian Gulf to the Pacific Ocean, via the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia, have become very important.
- The region’s growing share of world trade and investment means that it is at the forefront of globalization.
- Given the region’s demographic and economic weight and its energy intensity, it is of key global importance in terms of biodiversity and climate change.
Why is India interested in the Indo-Pacific?
- In recent times, beyond the Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific has been identified as being within the ambit of India’s security interests.
- India’s trade in this region is growing rapidly, with several overseas investments being made in India. India has Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with Japan, South Korea, and Singapore; and
- Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN.
- India is also entering into negotiations for the early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
- India’s approach to the region is exemplified by its evolving ‘Act East’ Policy, comprising economic engagement with Southeast Asia and strategic cooperation beyond Southeast Asia to East Asia (Japan, Republic of Korea), Australia, New Zealand, as well as the Pacific Island countries.
Trade, investments, anti-piracy and the rise of China are the drivers of India’s interests.
India wants a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
What is the level of our Defence Cooperation?
Since 1980s defence cooperation increased as India was looking to diversify its military procurement to reduce over-reliance on USSR. Major defence projects:
- 36 Rafale fighter jets through government to government deal
- P-75 Scorpene Project: The contract for six Scorpene submarines under technology transfer. The first two submarine Kalvari and Khanderi have been built.
- Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) manufacturing facility at Mihan in Maharashtra. It is a joint venture between French aerospace firm, Dassault Aviation, and India’s Reliance Group and is the first private facility for production of Rafale fighter jets and Falcon civilian aircraft.
- Regular defence exercises; viz. Exercise Shakti (Army), Exercise Varuna (Navy), Exercise Garuda (Air Force).
How far are we cooperating in the field of space?
- ISRO and the French Space Agency (CNES) are cooperating for many decades.
- French launch pads are used by ISRO for their GSLVs: GSAT-17 was launched from Kourou 2017.
- France is a major supplier of components and equipment for the Indian space programme.
- France and India celebrated 50 years of their exemplary cooperation in this area in 2014.
- The agreement on the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, signed in 2008, extended and clarified the areas of cooperation, particularly emphasizing the study of climate change using space-based facilities for Earth observation, or the development of telecommunications satellites for commercial purposes. This agreement made it possible to develop the Megha-Tropiques satellite, launched on 12th October 2011, and the SARAL satellite, which was put in orbit on 25th February 2013.
- The 2015 MoU signed between the French (CNES) and Indian (ISRO) space agencies. It led to the finalizing of a joint mission of India’s Oceansat-3 satellite hosting France’s Argos system for climate monitoring and tracking, scheduled to be launched in 2019. It has also resulted in the third jointly developed satellite, Trishna, for thermal infrared imaging. France is also considering contributing to India’s space agency, ISRO’s, upcoming inter-planetary missions to Mars and Venus..
- The ambitious Joint Vision for Space Cooperation signed in 2018 paved the way for coordinating our space and maritime collaborations
- and enabled the commencement of work on a constellation of micro-satellites for maritime surveillance.
- Finally, France supports India’s ambition to launch a human space flight by 2022- Gaganyaan. In 2018, CNES thus concluded an agreement with ISRO for training programmes and bioastronautics.
Are we jointly acting towards combating climate change?
With regard to combating climate change, France and India actively strengthened their cooperation under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Together, they spearhead the implementation of this Agreement.
They jointly launched the International Solar Alliance, a new international organization headquartered in New Delhi, which federates the endeavours of developing countries to accelerate the deployment of solar energy on a vast scale. The first Summit of the International Solar Alliance was held in New Delhi in 2018, co-chaired by the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of India. Over 70 countries have since joined this initiative.
Is Civilian Nuclear Cooperation making progress?
- After the 1998 nuclear test by India, France was the major nuclear country which understood India’s security compulsions for its nuclear test.
- France worked with the US to integrate India into global nuclear order through India-specific waiver in NSG
- France was the first country with which India entered into civil nuclear agreement following NSG waiver.
- General Framework Agreement and the Early Works Agreement between NPCIL and AREVA for the implementation Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) were signed in 2010.
Are we cooperating on terrorism?
- After the Paris bomb attacks, both countries increased cooperation on global terrorism.
- France supports India’s proposal of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN.
- During former President Hollande’s visit in 2016, India and France issued a Joint Statement on Counter-Terrorism in which they resolved to step up bilateral cooperation in this field.
- The joint statement issued on the occasion of Modi’s visit in 2019 calls for halting cross border movement of terrorists from Jaishe- Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, and affiliates.
- It also strengthened counter-terrorism efforts in the FATF.
On Economic relations
- In the backdrop of Brexit, France can act as an entry point for Indian businesses in Europe.
- Bilateral trade has increased significantly over the past fifteen years. More than the volume of bilateral trade, the dynamism of Indo-French economic relations springs from the establishment of French companies in India. Today, more than 550 French subsidiaries from a wide spectrum of sectors are present in India and employ a workforce of around 3,00,000 persons. The total French investment in India rose to 5.75 billion euros by the end of 2016. This figure rose since.
- France enjoyed a trade surplus of 1.8 billion USD in 2017.
What are the challenges in India-France relations?
- France’s commitment to BRI is in stark contrast to India’s position on the same.
- Presently cooperation on Indo-Pacific is merely symbolic. Need deep coordination between both countries.
- Delay in the Jaitapur nuclear plant project is affecting future cooperation on the nuclear front.
- The India-France relationship is primarily driven by government-to- government level relations. It needs people-to-people and business-to- business relations to deepen the ties.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France for a bilateral summit (August 22-23) and French President Macron’s invitation to him to participate in the G7 summit at Biarritz (August 25- 26) promises a further consolidation of the strong Indo-French strategic ties.
Bilateral Summit 2019
Indo-French roadmap on cyber security and digital technology 2019
It was agreed at the Summit meet between Indian PM and the President during the bilateral summit in 2019 August in France, to make digital technology a transformative factor in their societies, to fight terror, to foster economic growth, sustainable development and secure enhanced internet access which is essential to bridge digital divide.
- France and India affirmed their commitment to an open, reliable, secure, stable and peaceful cyberspace.
- International law, and in particular the Charter of the United Nations, is applicable and is essential to maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, peaceful and accessible Digital environment.
- They reaffirm the importance of promoting, and implementing voluntary norms of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace within the framework of the United Nations.
- Committed to peace and security in cyberspace
- France and India recognise the shared responsibility of a wide variety of actors, in their respective roles, to improve trust, security and stability in cyberspace.
- They call for the strengthening of the multistakeholder approach to ensure an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful Digital environment, and stress that this requires joint efforts by governments, industry, academia, and civil society, according to the roadmap.
- France and India recognise that the rapid development of digital technology and its use must be accompanied by a cooperative, coherent, determined and resolute action by the international community, aimed at guaranteeing the sovereignty of States over the Digital Infrastructure located within the territory of the States as well as the protection of online human rights and freedom of expression.
- France and India recognise the importance of the pursuit and the deepening of the cyber dialogue.