France’s cognisance of India’s need to exercise its own choices has removed potential friction points such as differing positions on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Cooperation in the area of energy transition is also in full swing where the two countries, in 2015, launched the International Solar Alliance that has grown to include 100 odd countries.In this multi-faceted partnership, collaboration s a wide range of sectors including defence, climate change, energy transition, space cooperation, blue economy, multilateralism, and even counter-terrorism. France has been a consistent supporter of a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It has also actively supported India’s stances on Kashmir and terrorism at the United Nations (UN) as well as bodies like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Cooperation in the area of energy transition is also in full swing where the two countries, in 2015, launched the International Solar Alliance that has grown to include 100 odd countries.
The Indo-Pacific was also a key priority during France’s presidency of the Council of the EU in early 2022. Strategic alignment between France and India has also enabled trilateral arrangements with like-minded countries such as Australia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).The China factor is a central reason for India’s closer ties with Western countries and their courtship of India. The Russia-Ukraine war has served as a wake-up call for European countries with regards to their heavy economic dependence on China. For Europe, diversification and “de-risking” from China as well as striving for a rules-based global order and stability in the Indo-Pacific are now important ingredients in its policy-making. India is viewed as a country that can balance China economically and as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific. Deepening US-China strategic rivalry is also pushing middle powers India and France to engage more in pursuit of a multipolar world.
India and France released a roadmap “Horizon 2047” to advance bilateral cooperation over the next 25 years, which will mark 100 years of India’s independence and 50 years of the India-France strategic partnership.However, in a relationship that continues to be dominated by security issues, trade has remained a laggard. This is in stark contrast to India’s ties with Germany, where economics forms the bulk of the partnership. The figures are telling—France is only India’s 11th largest foreign investor and in 2022, bilateral trade stood at US$15.8 billion, increasing consistently year on year, but still remaining below potential. Bilateral trade with Germany, on the other hand, stood at almost US$30 billion in the same year. The CEO forum held during this visit with business heads from both sides was part of an effort to address this lag. Yet it is through the conclusion of an EU-India Free Trade Agreement that the maximum trade potential between India and France could be unlocked. India and France released a roadmap “Horizon 2047” to advance bilateral cooperation over the next 25 years, which will mark 100 years of India’s independence and 50 years of the India-France strategic partnership. This futuristic vision is only likely to catapult the relationship to greater heights. Even before the Russia-Ukraine conflict, France had replaced Russia as India’s best friend. Perhaps, what is most special about this relationship is its deep-rooted trust and lack of baggage. And despite being a longstanding well-institutionalised partnership, the personal chemistry between Modi and Macron certainly helps.
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Shairee Malhotra is Associate Fellow, Europe with ORF’s Strategic Studies Programme. Her areas of work include Indian foreign policy with a focus on EU-India relations, ...Read More +