“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”
French President Emmanuel Macron is on a 4-day visit to India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Macron are having deliberations on ways to strengthen the strategic and defense ties between the two countries. During the visit, 14 agreements have been signed in strategic areas of nuclear energy, security, and protection of classified information. In addition to this business deals worth 16 billion dollars have been finalized. Other agreements have been made in areas of urban development, education, railways, and environment.
Joint Strategic Vision:
As China’s presence in the Indian Ocean Region is rising, India and France have common concerns relating to freedom of navigation in the region and threat of weapons of mass destruction. To counter this threat, India and France have joined hands to establish an open, transparent system for peace and security in the region. This arrangement has a scope of aiming at “countering maritime terrorism and piracy” to “building maritime domain awareness”. The Joint Strategic Vision also sends the message that India is not limiting itself just to the Quadrilateral Arrangement to develop interests in Indo Pacific region.
The Quadrilateral Arrangement also knew as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was a strategic dialogue between US, India, Australia, and Japan. It was accompanied with joint military exercises on a large scale under the name Exercise Malabar. This military and the diplomatic arrangement was seen as a response to China’s growing influence in the Indo Pacific region.
A similar agreement was signed with the US in January 2015 as well to maintain the safety of international sea routes for unobstructed communication and trade in accordance with the law.
Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) of France and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to develop maritime surveillance satellite system which would focus on the Indian Ocean. This would significantly improve the domain awareness in the region
A Joint Vision on Space cooperation has also been released, which aims to address global issues like climate change and to explore beyond our solar system. It envisages cooperation between counter-terrorism agencies to fight and prevent radicalization, specifically online.
The leaders also welcomed “The India France Joint Vision for Space Cooperation”, giving special acknowledgment to the current third joint satellite mission, between their space agencies.
Jaitapur Nuclear Plant Cooperation:
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India and EDF firm of France have signed an agreement for Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant. The Jaitapur plant, which is going to be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, with a capacity of 9.6 gigawatts is targeted to begin this year end. It will help India achieve its goal of using 40% non-fossil energy by 2030. They emphasized on building a cost-effective electricity, competitive pricing and economical financial package and from the French side, a reliable, uninterrupted and continued access to the nuclear fuel supply, for the lifetime of the Jaitapur Nuclear Plant, increased efforts of localized manufacturing in India which is cost effective and transfer of technology.
The joint statement by the two leaders welcomed the understanding of enforcement of India’s rules and regulations on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages applicable to the Jaitapur Plant.
The two leaders noted with satisfaction about the current growth rate of the bilateral trade between the two countries and desired for this momentum to be sustained with the aim of having a 15 billion Euros trade in goods by 2022. SMEs and mid-cap companies were encouraged to play an increased role in the economic and commercial market of the two counties.
The two leaders underlined the importance of a continued dialogue in the India-France Joint Committee for regular and sustained economic cooperation, along with welcoming the recommendations put forward by the Co-Chairs of the CEO Forum in Delhi in March 2018.
The leaders recognized a space for a vibrant Educational Cooperation which lies between the Governmental framework, which encourages Universities and Academic Institutes to increase the number and the quality of student exchanges with the goal of reaching 10,000 students by 2020.
An agreement for mutual recognition of degrees was signed, which will facilitate more Indian students to pursue their studies in France and vice versa, increasing their employability. The first Indo-French conference on research and higher education was being conducted on 10th and 11th March 2018.
Additional measures on skill development were also taken, noting its importance in the two countries.
Exchange of Information:
The two leaders supported the signing of the agreement between “Government of the Republic of India and Government of the Republic of France regarding the exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information”, signifying the high level of trust prevalent between the two countries.
The two sides signed a new protocol for exchange of classified information between the two countries keeping the long history of France providing India with sensitive technologies for military and space programmes as a point to refer to. Increased encouragement has been shown by the French President to extend the Bilateral contract for the supply of INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene submarine made in India.
The countries also agreed to conduct an annual defense dialogue at the ministerial level.
Implications of the Visit
The agreements between India and France sends the message that India is far from limiting itself to the Quadrilateral Arrangement with the US and its allies Japan and Australia to develop an interest in the Indo-Pacific.
The vast holistic agreements and cooperations between India and France, stressed upon by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a relationship stretching from “earth to the sky”, provides an alternative to US and Russia in the area of dealings with aircraft, military hardware, nuclear reactors and space cooperation.
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