France and India Deepen Ties
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France and India Deepen Ties

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As Europe weathers a recession, major players on the continent are looking towards India to boost their sagging economies. Despite its own economic slowdown, the subcontinent’s rising economic profile and rapidly expanding infrastructure prompted newly elected French President Francois Hollande to visit New Delhi on Valentine's Day, his first official trip to Asia since assuming office.

During the two-day visit, Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh concluded negotiations on a Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile deal worth nearly U.S. $6 billion. Despite expectations, however, the two leaders did not ink the much talked-about $12 billion deal for India to buy Rafale fighter jets from France, despite a year of negotiation.  

In a joint press conference in New Delhi after the talks, Singh said, "Discussions on the…contract are progressing well. We have also concluded negotiations on the Short Range Surface to Air Missile, which, once approved by the Government, will be co-developed and co-produced in India."

This joint project is a significant step for India and France, and gives a new impetus to the strategic partnership agreement signed between the two countries in 1998.

The joint statement issued after the meeting says the countries will strengthen ties in the fields of defence, space, energy, climate change, security, counter terrorism and in the fight against the trafficking of illegal drugs.

In the energy sector, France has been at the forefront of efforts to help India develop civil nuclear technology. It was the first country to sign a civil nuclear agreement with New Delhi in 2008. India and France signed a memorandum of understanding in 2009 through which six nuclear reactor units would be established at Jaitapur in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

France is helping India construct two nuclear power reactors at the proposed 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Ratnagiri, 400 km south of Mumbai. Locals, NGOs and anti-nuclear groups and some political parties have fiercely resisted the project.

In an effort to allay concerns about the safety of the nuclear plant, the joint statement stresses that the Jaitapur units “would incorporate the highest safety standards”. Experts believe that deepening economic and defense engagement between the two countries will add a new strategic dimension to the India-France relationship.

In an article titled When Europe’s Leaders Come Calling, Harsh V. Pant, a lecturer in the Department of Defence Studies at King’s College London, writes: “French support will be crucial as India seeks entry into the global export control regime and Paris has underscored its unequivocal commitment to supporting India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, and the Missile Technology Control Regime.”

Others argue that New Delhi and Paris should assert their joint presence in the Indian Ocean region to neutralize China’s growing dominance.

In an opinion piece published in the Indian Express, C Raja Mohan argues: “As the geopolitical weight of the Indian Ocean grows, Delhi and Paris need to integrate different strands of current bilateral cooperation in the maritime domain. Given the deepening political comfort between Delhi and Paris, Manmohan Singh and Hollande must declare that deepening maritime collaboration is a shared strategic objective and order their defence establishments to begin operational military cooperation in the Indian Ocean.”

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in New Delhi today to engage India on a three-day visit that is expected to highlight trade. Cameron’s current trip, his second since 2010, is expected to add momentum to the strategic partnership agreement signed by the two nations in 2005.

Only time will tell how these partnerships evolve, but visits by two European leaders in quick succession clearly demonstrate the growing importance of Indo-European ties.

Comments
4
nadeem
February 20, 2013 at 17:59

india is brcoming a front runner in the race for indian ocean forgetting that her economy will go in the hand of west, also forgetting the economic shift from west to east and also not cosidering the demography which is in favour of east in short india is embarking on a titanic ride

EAM
February 20, 2013 at 01:25

@Bankotsu It seems clear enough that both China and India are aspiring to do their own version of the Monroe doctrine. Some voices in China appears now to be telling us in Australia that we will one day have to chose between the US and China, suggesting the geographic extent of how China far might see its zone as covering.

 

http://www.smh.com.au/world/day-will-come-when-we-must-choose-us-or-china-20130215-2eijr.html

 

If just China or just India did this, we (and all other smaller countries) need to be worried. If both do it, while this will create undoubted tensions, it will at least create strategic space for the smaller countries to try to survive – just an many used “non-alignment” to do so during the Cold War – to get as a good a possible deal from both superpowers without having to chose.

I would guess that French and European support for these types of outcomes may be welcomed in the region. If it was India rather than China that was the stronger of the two, I would also guess that this kind of support would be given to China and not India.

 

Most though for the moment prefer to have the US in the region as a hedge including Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam but if we reach a point in time when the US is no longer interested in the role, that’s when things will get really interesting.

Bankotsu
February 19, 2013 at 05:03

It should not cause any surprise, therefore, if India as an emerging great power seeks hegemony in South Asia.

Its determination to achieve hegemony in South Asia was unequivocally elaborated by noted Indian security analyst, C. Raja Mohan, in an article, entitled “India and the Balance of Power”, published in the Foreign Affairs issue of July-August 2006: “India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles.

In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighbourhood stretching across Asia and the India Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests.

In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.”

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/19-Feb-2013/india-an-aspiring-hegemon

Be Way
February 18, 2013 at 12:25

India paid a fortune for the good ties.    Is that self-explanatory?

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