Takeaways from Modi’s French visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his two-day visit to France during which India has not only bought 26 fifth generation Rafale marine fighter jets as well as three Scorpene submarines, but to further strengthening its strategic partnership for advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. This was evident from the joint statement issued by French President Emmanuel Macron along with Modi. They also agreed to share a vision of a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, based on commitment international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, freedom of navigation and a region free from coercion, tensions and conflicts. What does this mean? It means to checkmate the expansionist China, whose engagements in the recent past, has become a binding factor for all democracies and peace-loving nations to join hands to put an end to that nation’s hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region.

In fact, the Indo-Pacific partnership encompasses defence and security, trade, investment, connectivity, health and sustainability. Besides bilateral cooperation, India and France will continue to develop new partnerships in various formats with like-minded countries in the region and within regional organisations. The first Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum held in Paris in February 2022 during the French presidency of the Council of the EU launched an ambitious agenda on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Against that backdrop, India and France reaffirmed their commitment to deepen India-EU Strategic Partnership and look forward to closely work together in the implementation of the India-EU Connectivity Partnership and the decisions made at the India-EU Leaders’ Meeting in Porto in May 2021. Both the leaders also welcomed the recent launch of the India-EU Trade and Technology Council that will foster high level coordination on strategic aspects of trade, technology and security as well as the restart of negotiations on India-EU Agreements on Trade, Investment and Geographical Indicators.

It is no exaggeration that India and France have traditionally close and friendly relations. In 1998, the two countries entered into Strategic Partnership which is emblematic of their convergence of views on a range of international issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship. And that marks the 25th anniversary of the  partnership, which Modi said, is rooted in deep trust and commitment – the two countries cooperate closely across various domains, including defence, space, civil nuclear, blue economy, trade, investment, education, culture and people-to-people ties. “France is India’s oldest strategic partner, and the relationship has almost no friction points. Both nations value their strategic autonomy, independent foreign policies, and seek a multipolar world. The defence relationship is robust, and is set to get stronger,” the PM remembered.

Interestingly, India exported 4,155 commodities to France during April-October 2022. India’s export to France stood at US$ 4.9 billion during April-November 2022. Major exported items  to France include petroleum products (US$ 977 million) followed by electric machinery and equipment (US$ 371 million) etc. Though India is not a part of any major military alliance, it has a close strategic and military relationship with most of its fellow major powers. Countries considered India’s closest include the United Arab Emirates, Russian Federation, Israel, Afghanistan, France, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and the United States. However, the US has emerged as India’s biggest trading partner in 2022-23

Added to that is the fact that Indian gross domestic product surpassed France in 2017 and Britain in  2018. Per capita (nominal) income of India is nearly $2000, but both France and UK are way ahead with nearly $40000. As a whole, India showing signs of an  economic powerhouse with over $400 billion forex reserves and upwards of a  7 per cent growth rate.

Thus far, many foreign policy experts are of the opinion that the new foreign policy being pursued by Modi, since he took over the reins in 2014, not only made India to win over more friends in the comity of countries, but also helped it grow as an economic and military power. This may envy the Modi-baiters back home, but the 140 crore people of the country feel proud the way India is being recognized by superpowers of its importance and according such reception, wherever the PM travels. And the French government’s decision to confer its highest honour on the  Indian premier is a clear sign of India emerging globally. And Modi, in all humility,  dedicating the honour to the 140 crore populace, also explains his commitment and dedication to take a India to much greater heights. This includes even otherwise hostile Organisation of Islamic Cooperation nations!