Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France this week has strengthened the bilateral relations and the 20 year old ‘Strategic Partnership’ signed between both countries in 1998. In the light of the political developments in Jammu &Kashmir, New Delhi received a major boost given that France termed the issue as an internal matter of India and had backed India in the closed door UNSC consultations.
The Prime Minister emphasised that Indo-French relations are based on the firm foundations of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” and many decades of strong cooperation. Both sides endorsed the road map for further enhancing the strategic partnership and some of the key areas identified were skill development, civil aviation, IT and space. Mr. Modi emphasised that Defence cooperation is a ‘strong pillar’ of the relationship and welcomed the delivery of the first ‘Rafael’ aircrafts to India in September. Emphasising the bilateral partnership, both leaders called for addressing global challenges such as terrorism and radicalisation and agreed to ‘broaden the cooperation on security and counter-terrorism’. The Indo –French cooperation in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that seeks to check financing of terror got a major achievement with the blacklisting of Pakistan for non-compliance. Both countries also called for the implementation of the UNSC Resolution 2462 on fighting terror financing that was adopted in March 2019. In this context, both leaders also welcomed the International Conference on Fighting Terrorist Financing to be held at Melbourne in November 2019.
In the area of security cooperation, both sides recently concluded Naval (Varuna) and Air (Garuda) exercises. Given the growing significance of the Indo-Pacific Ocean, India and France also decided to ensure freedom of navigation and strengthen their cooperation in maritime and cyber security issues and also agreed on a new road map for cyber security and digital technology. An agreement was signed between the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing and Atos to enhance cooperation in quantum computing, Artificial Intelligence and “exascale” supercomputing and also bring the respective start-up ecosystems closer to each other. Another key area of focus relates to energy issues and both sides examined the progress in the negotiations on nuclear energy between India’s NPCIL and French EDF, in light of the construction of six nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. The French role in India’s energy sector has also grown with the joint initiative on the International Solar Alliance.
Both Prime Minister Modi and President Emmanuel Macron agreed to revive the High Level Economic and Financial Dialogue to address trade and investment issues and enhance bilateral trade. At the civil society level, India is planning for another round of ‘Namaste France’ in 2021-22. The Indian Prime Minister stressed on the need to increase student exchange between both countries and welcomed the growing number of French students to India. In this context, India and France have a Migration and Mobility Partnership that allows Indian students to stay back and work in France for a few years after completing their education. In the area of space research, France will train medical support personnel for Indian astronauts manned space mission by 2022. Prime Minister Modi also addressed the Indian community in Paris and also dedicated two memorials to the Indian victims of the Air India crashes in France.
On regional issues, both sides emphasised on full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s Nuclear Programme and reiterated that related issues should be resolved through dialogue. Although India is not a member, President Macron has invited India as a ‘Biarritz partner’ to participate in the G 7 Summit over the weekend. Prime Minister Modi will be speaking on issues related to environment, climate change and digital transformations. The G7 will offer a platform to the PM to have bilateral talks with other G 7 leaders. Mr. Modi has had a highly successful visit to France with whom India shares a ‘comprehensive, dynamic and multifaceted relationship’.
Script: Prof. Ummu Salma Bava,Chairperson And Jean Monnet Chair, Centre For European Studies. JNU