Event ReportsPublished on May 01, 2013
ORF, the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of India and CERI - Sciences Po and Centre d'analyse Stratégique (CAPS) of France have begun an Experts Policy Dialogue to delve into key areas, opportunities and challenges that will shape, enrich and confront the India-France relationship in the coming years.
Experts Policy Dialogue on India-France relations
Observer Research Foundation, the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of India and CERI - Sciences Po and Centre d’analyse Stratégique (CAPS) of France organised a two-day Experts Policy Dialogue to delve into key areas, opportunities and challenges that will shape, enrich and confront the India-France relationship in the coming years. The objective of the dialogue, held in May, was to create a platform to ideate, brainstorm and develop new thoughts and ideas that could be put forward for the considerations at the formal dialogue process between the two countries. The outputs emerging from this interaction among policy makers, scholars and thinkers of the two countries, in an informal setting, promises to provide new, creative and fresh impetus to the structured strategic dialogue and other government to government consultations between India and France. The dialogue, planned as annual interactions, while identifying key initial areas of collaboration, is expected to delve into all sectors and opportunities therein, that the countries must seek to realise. The May 2013 dialogue in Paris was the first of the interactions. The discussions that ensued covered a range of issues including the strategic bilateral relationship, cooperation in South and West Asia, cooperation in the Indo Pacific, collaboration at the G20, and new approaches to sustainable development and climate change. The prominent inputs from these discussions are captured in the following paragraphs. •     The India - France relationship enjoys bipartisan political support in both countries, and is premised on shared values such as democracy and rule of law; as well as a shared desire to maintain strategic autonomy in a multi-polar world. The relationship has been underpinned by trust, and convergence of interests on both regional and global issues; as well as by a shared heritage. 2014 marks the centenary of the Great War, when Indian troops fought for the allies at the French border, and offers an opportunity to celebrate and reaffirm the mutual importance that each country places on the relationship. Perhaps a media event or public engagement highlighting this historic day and the evolution of the relationship could be planned by the two governments next year. •     Indeed, the relationship qualifies as one which can be termed ’special’. On-going civil - nuclear cooperation, comprehensive defence and security engagements, as well as new initiatives including collaborations on space technologies and anti-terrorism efforts are some examples of concrete areas of the relationship. The zero threat dimension in the relationship, allows for strategic cooperation including sharing of technologies, arms/weapons sales, and robust intelligence exchange. This aspect must now be captured and formalised so as to guide further cooperation in S&T and Military domains. •     There is great potential to scale up economic cooperation, particularly trade volumes from the current levels of around 8 billion USD. Scientific cooperation and linkages in the education sector in particular must be strengthened to reflect the full scope of the relationship. India’s education sector offers immense commercial potential for French entrants. The sector has seen large inflows of foreign direct investment, as well as affiliations with leading international universities and vocational training institutions. •     As there are dynamic shifts in the global order, many assumptions of strategic cooperation will need to be reconsidered swiftly. Growing doubts about extended nuclear deterrence, the new salience of non-traditional security issues, and the emerging space and cyber threats must be discussed further. •     There exist a number of challenges in West Asia, which require concerted efforts on part of both countries. The region is a fast evolving space, affected by multiple drivers including the changing balance of global power, growing energy needs, and new forms of radicalism. The exacerbation of the divide between the Shias and the Sunnis, the rise of Islamist parties and new representations built around the Syrian conflict - have added to the element of uncertainty in the region. At the same time, India and France share an interest in maintaining stability in the region and our policies must be carefully coordinated. •     The stability of Afghanistan post 2014 is of concern to both countries. There is also mutual acceptance of the fact that the role of regional powers cannot be underestimated in the evolving dynamics. Engagements with both Iran and Pakistan need to be defined accordingly. Iran’s role will likely be linked to its own perception of its responsibilities and status in the region; and the political and economic developments in Pakistan will likely have commensurate impact on regional dynamics. India and France must work closely as the regional situation evolves. •     The Indo-Pacific is another region which requires a reimagined paradigm of Indo-French cooperation. The region is a theatre of geopolitics, unparalleled by any other. There are significant changes in how both India and France see the region, which requires a macro understanding and a micro approach for dealing with specific regional challenges. Immediate cooperation in the sphere of shared domain awareness, intelligence operations, capacity building and training, will reinforce Indo-French capabilities. •     Both countries recognise that China’s presence in the region will continue to grow and exclusion of China from the region is not an alternative. The two countries must intensify the engagement with China to reduce the real potential for misperceptions about rising China. •     It is important that India and France engage meaningfully to address cross border maritime issues including piracy and terrorism and build up joint operational competency and capacity. A clear area of cooperation in this context is nuclear submarine technology transfer from France to India that is permitted by Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). •     It is important for regional maritime challenges to be seen through a broad prism, which includes dealing with issues such as over-fishing and capacity gaps of small island states to assert their sovereignty. An Indo-French maritime institute could be a concrete way of scaling up bilateral engagement in the region, while simultaneously engaging regional actors. Multilateral cooperation in the region is also important; and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC), in which France is a dialogue partner, presents an opportunity for India and France to leverage bilateral relations in the multilateral space. •     India and France have seen high degree of convergence on many multilateral issues, including the push for inclusion of India in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Closer coordination of position at the UN and other fora is expected in the days ahead. •     The G20 offers a unique space for Indo-French cooperation on global economic issues. The two countries must work together to ensure the legitimacy and efficacy of the grouping, by focussing on transparency of the Mutual Assessment Process and engagements with external stakeholders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They must also ensure that disparate domestic contexts are factored into financial regulations and norms, as well as emphasise capacity building of supervisory institutions such as the Financial Stability Board (FSB). •     G20 declarations provide an initial measure of multilateral agreement on specific issues. The grouping must remain focussed on key issues taken up at the outset including policy coordination and financial supervision. India and France must ensure that the agenda is kept lithe and subject specific, and not allow for new themes to be crept in which can compromise the efficiency and relevance of the G20 process itself. •     India and France must coordinate closely on the multilateral climate change agenda at the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP 21, scheduled to be held in France, is an opportune time to de-hyphenate India from China, given India’s unique set of absolute challenges of poverty and lack of access to modern commercial energy. •     In the case of the post 2015 development agenda, both countries must place emphasis on development through flexible means rather than achieving universal consensus. Excessive preponderance on complex governance norms (as evidenced in the Bali Communique) rather than sharpened focus on enabling sustainable development through financial and technological means, threaten to delay urgently required action. The two must also ensure that the multilateral climate discussions remain delinked from the post 2015 process. •     Both countries have the opportunity to collaborate on technological solutions including ramping up efficiency in sectors such as coal mining, construction and power; and scaling up nuclear power through co-development of enrichment technology. •     It is imperative that industrial and corporate sectors in both countries engage in dialogue to map experiences and share market based solutions. Local solutions such as the S&P-BSE GREENEX energy efficiency and financial performance benchmark index for large listed Indian companies can be easily replicated. Commensurate emphasis must be placed on channelling global savings into long term asset creation. There is potential for Indo-French cooperation with groups such as the Long Term Investors Club, which can possibly offer ways to align investment behaviour with long term time horizons. The discussions were successful in creating a comfort level which provides the basis to continue engagements between the two countries at the Track 1.5 level. The format provided stakeholders with an opportunity to cut across a variety of important themes in a short of time. It was decided that the dialogue, much like the India-France relationship, must also remain sharp and supple, and focus on strategic themes.
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