Franco-India camaraderie is not a new phenomenon in the geopolitical landscape, though an understated one, in the mainstream discussion. France is one of the European nations that retained its ties with India even in the midst of the Cold-War. It was also the first major power that opened talks with India post its nuclear weapon test. France is precisely India’s first and “the original” Strategic Partner, since 1998. French President, Francois Hollande, concluded his three-day visit to India recently, as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day Parade, and became the fifth such French leader to be the Chief Guest of this occasion. This was his second State visit; and happened nine months after the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, visited France in April 2015. All this is in addition to the already existing close interactions between the two leaders at the G20 meeting in November 2014 in Brisbane, the UN General Assembly in September 2015 and at the COP 21 in November 2015 in Paris.
France and India share the fundamental values of individual liberty, rule of law, human rights, and regard their strategic autonomy and independence as the fundamental principles of their building blocks. It is for this reason, perhaps, that France has pushed for the democratization of the UN Security Council to make it a more representative body and has actively reaffirmed its supportive stand on the permanent membership of India in the Security Council. Furthermore, the two nation-states have together reiterated their concerns regarding the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons capable of mass destruction. “In order to strengthen global non-proliferation and export control regimes, France and India are committed to continue to work jointly towards India’s accession to the multilateral export control regimes, namely, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement. France reaffirmed its strong and active support to building consensus among regimes’ members on this issue, recognizing that India’s accession will add value to the aims and objectives of these regimes.” Moreover, both the nations reasserted their “commitment to counter terrorism” and called for a separate joint statement on counter-terrorism cooperation by both sides. The two leaders also agreed to deepen cooperation between the respective security forces on the issues like “homeland security, cyber security, Special Forces and intelligence-sharing” in order to deal with the mutual threat of terrorism. The first-ever bilateral dialogue on Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean Region held on 14th and 15th January in Paris was also hailed by the two leaders. It was also decided that the Agreement on Defence Cooperation would be extended for another ten years. There is an agreement on holding joint military exercises and that the respective business enterprises should work towards the transfer of technological know-how and should co-develop and co-produce defence equipments. There was also a reaffirmation of their respective responsibilities with regard to the sustainable development of civil nuclear energy “with highest consideration to safety, security, non-proliferation and environmental protection.” Techno-commercial negotiations, between industrial companies, are supposed to speed up for the prospective setting up of six nuclear power reactor units at Jaitapur; in accordance with the Government of India’s “Make in India” project. Furthermore, there were important subjects that were discussed including the new International Solar Alliance, sustainable consumption and production patterns, renewable energies and energy efficiency, sustainable urban development, transport, space, etc., all of which suggested that there is much more to the Indo-French bilateral ties. We have come a long way, but the bilateral trade between the two states remains a low key-affair till date.
After all the hyperactive diplomacy moves, may we not forget that, it’s not only the foreign policy that keeps the development agenda alive, but a thorough revision of the innermost fissures of a developing country like India keep the policy-formation from taking good shape. Will the State, then, look inwards? Only the future times will tell.