Enjoy your read!!
France is a prominent nation among the world countries because of its permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, nuclear weapon status. It also enjoys a pivotal position within the European Union, because of the size of its economy, solid platform for defence hardware production , technological advancement and the power deriving from its language, culture cuisine, art and so on. The foundations of French- India ties are strong and time- tested. France was the first country with which we established a strategic partnership( in 1998).Our Defence ties dates back to 1950s, with France providing excellent defence hardware that had served us well.
Major French Defence/Strategic Procurements
The French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit at this juncture was an important event for India. While the contract for 6 Scorpene Submarines and 36 Rafale Aircrafts fortify our ties, the proposals for light utility helicopters, refueling aircraft, joint development and manufacture of short ranged missiles have not fructified. Mostly these setbacks were attributable to dilatory and ever- changing procurement procedures, the taint of corruption marking defence deals and the tedious tendering process biased mechanically in favour of the lowest bidder. The controversy generated around Rafale contract because of party politics, ignores its potentially adverse effect on future transactions.
In the sensitive Nuclear domain, the 2008 framework agreement for constructing six EPR technology nuclear power reactors at ‘Jaitapur’ apart, both nations have had productive scientific and training exchange over the years on nuclear safety and related issues.
Space cooperation between India and France has been active for the last 50 years which included the launching of our communication satellites by Arianespace and ISRO’s launch of France’s SPOT satellites. Close relations with France, therefore, serve to expand India’s political, security and energy options.
Close relations with India enhance France’s international role. It’s widely accepted that economic and political power grid will soon shift towards Asia. In that scenario, it would be in French interest to establish partnerships with like-minded countries with a total commitment to democratic, liberal and pluralistic values so that the existing international order can be reformed through mutual understanding and tolerance. Both the nations realise the importance of preventing few authoritarian countries wield supreme power to socially and politically control the people at the cost of individual freedom. India is a natural partner for France to checkmate the growing strength of China signalled by its ‘Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI)’ which can create massive growth- political impact in the whole world.
Another common platform we both nations share, is the fight against terrorism. France had been a victim of frequent ghastly terror attacks and share a common cause.
India and France have cooperated closely on ‘Climate Change’ issues leading to the Paris Agreement and its implementation.
Impact of the visit of French President
With China in mind, India and France have stepped up strategic cooperation, by signing a pact that will enable their defence forces to access each other’s facilities and extend logistical support on a reciprocal basis. The two nations also have signed a new confidentiality agreement replacing the 2008 pact, that shields the government from sharing classified information on defence deals,
including the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. On the government -to-government deal with France in 2016, to buy 36 Rafale jets for about 58,000 crores, both the governments made a commitment to push ahead and complete the deal. Both the nations also made common cause on maritime security, as they signed a joint strategic vision on the Indian Ocean Region to counter more proactive and assertive Chinese activities in Indian Ocean.
Recalling the importance of the ‘Varuna’ bilateral exercise initiated in 1983, India and France agreed to enhance inter- operability between the two Navies. It’s next exercise to be held in the Indian Ocean this year, will focus on” Submarine and anti- submarine warfare as well as combating maritime terrorism”.
On the much delayed Jaitapur nuclear power project, both leaders reiterated the goal of commencing work at Jaitapur site by the end of 2018. Once installed this project will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, with a total capacity of 9.6 GW. It will contribute to achieving India’s goal of 40 % non-fossil energy by 2030.In all, India and France inked 14 pacts in key areas of defence, security, nuclear energy and protection of classified information as well as cooperation in other areas including railways, environment, solar energy, maritime awareness and checking traffic of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
During the visit of French President Macron, both the countries refined the purchase agreement to buy Rafale jets and renewed the confidentiality agreement to keep the details of the deal under wraps. This may further invite criticism from the opposition parties in India. The opposition accused that India by this deal had caused Rs 12,632 crore loss to the exchequer. They argued that Rafale jets were sold to Qatar and Egypt at a lower price in 2016, quoting the annual report of ‘Dassault Aviation‘, the makers of Rafale. Leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that India brought a Rafale jet each at a price of Rs 351 crore higher than those sold to Qatar and Egypt.
As a finale to the French President’s visit ,India co-hosted the first ‘International Solar Alliance'(ISA) Meet. India stepped up efforts at positioning itself as a global climate leader at the first conference of ISA, with PM Modi pledging to generate 175 Giga-watts ( GW) of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2022, including 100 GW from Solar and 60 GW from wind.