Taking strategic ties to a new high
India and France took their strategic ties to a new plane on March 10 when they signed as many as 14 key agreements in areas like defence, security, nuclear energy and protection of classified information as French President Emmanuel Macron conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi his country’s firm resolve to join hands with India in combating terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and radicalisation. Without directly naming Pakistan or any other nation, the two leaders, in a joint statement, called upon all countries to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting networks and their financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Qaeda, Daesh/ISIS and their affiliates who threaten peace and security in South Asia and the Sahel region, a joint statement issued after Modi-Macron talks said.
The two countries also inked pacts in fields like education, environment, urban development and railways after wide-ranging talks between the two leaders on bilateral issues as well as international developments.
Display of friendship
Prime Minister, Modi while interacting with Macron described France as one of the most trusted defence partners of India. He also spoke about Paris’s commitment to his ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defence sector. Responding the French leader said, “France is the entry point to Europe. We want to be India’s best partner in Europe. ”
Joint Strategic Vision
The two leaders also welcomed the ‘Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region’ as a guiding beacon for partnership between their two countries. Apparently taking a dig at China for its growing ambition in the South China Sea, the two leaders reiterated that cooperation between India and France would be crucial in order to maintain the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications in accordance with the international law, for countering maritime terrorism and piracy. ‘’Indian Ocean cannot be a place for hegemony,’’ the French President said.
Significance is being attached to the agreement for logistics support between the armed forces of the two countries. Under the accord, India is expected to be permitted to use French bases in the Indian Ocean and, in return, allow French naval vessels access to Indian ports for repair and resupply. The pact also has provisions for joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
The agreement regarding the exchange and reciprocal protection of classified or protected information will enable the two countries not to divulge information classified ‘secret’ by either side. It would apparently also cover cost details of the Rafale jet deal on which the Modi government has been facing intense heat from the Congress party. The two leaders noted with satisfaction the on-schedule progress in the implementation of acquisition related agreements, including the Rafale pact signed in 2016.
The agreement on nuclear cooperation prescribes a way forward for the implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project which has been hanging fire for almost a decade now. The two leaders reiterated the goal of commencing work at the Jaitapur site by the end of this year.
Despite the age difference between them, Modi and Macron have established a personal chemistry between them which was very much in evidence as the two leaders hugged each other at the ceremonial welcome accorded to the French leader at the Rashtrapati Bhavanon Saturday morning. The two leaders will co-chair the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Summit on Sunday.
14 MoUs signed by the two sides:
- Home Minister Rajnath Singh and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian signed an agreement on the “prevention of illicit consumption and reduction of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and chemical precursors and related offences”. The pact would facilitate the two countries in combating illicit traffic and consumption of drugs and also impact on financing of terrorism, according to a PIB statement.
- Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian inked the India-France Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement, which aims to facilitate temporary circular migration based on mobility and the encouragement for a return of skills to the home country.
- Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar and French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Frederique Vidal signed an agreement to facilitate “mutual recognition of academic qualifications”.
- French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian singed an agreement on behalf of SNCF Motilities with Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on technical cooperation in the field of railways. “The purpose of this MoU is to build upon and deepen the mutual cooperation and focus on priority areas of high speed and semi-high speed rail; station renovation modernisation of current operations and infrastructure; and suburban trains,” said the release.
- Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian also signed a Letter of Intent between for creation of a permanent Indo-French Railways Forum to enhance the already existing cooperation.
- Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly signed a pact “to facilitate the reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies and services between the Armed Forces of the two countries during authorised port visits, joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts etc”.
- Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr Mahesh Sharma and Brune Poirson, French Minister of State, attached to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, signed an MoU to establish a basis for exchange of information between the governments and technical experts of the two countries in the field of environment and climate change.
- MoS (Independent Charge), Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri and Minister of State, attached to the Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Brune Poirson singed an agreement between India and France on cooperation in the field of sustainable urban development to allow exchange of information on smart city development, development of urban mass transportation systems, urban settlements and utilities etc.
- National Security advisor Ajit Doval and Philippe Etienne, Diplomatic Adviser to the French President, inked a pact regarding the exchange and reciprocal protection of classified or protected information. According to the press statement, the agreement defines the common security regulations applicable to any exchange of classified and protected information.
- K. Sivan, Secretary, Department of Space & Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation, and Jean-Yves Le Gall, President, Central National D’EtudesSpatiales, signed an agreement to implement an arrangement between the two organizations for pre-formulation studies of a maritime awareness mission. The agreement would provide end-to-end solution for detection, identification and monitoring of vessels in the regions of interest for France and India, said the release.
- An ‘Industrial Way Forward Agreement’ between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, and EDF, France, was signed by Sekhar Basu, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, andJean Bernard Levy, CEO, EDF. The agreement prescribes a way forward for the implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project.
- Vinay Kwatra, Ambassador of India to France, and Alexander Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India, signed a bilateral arrangement to encourage cooperation in the field of hydrography, nautical documentation and maritime safety information.
- A ‘credit facility agreement’ of Euros 100 million was signed between India and France for funding of the Smart City projects through a “challenge process”. Ambassador of India to France Vinay Kwatra and Ambassador of France to India Alexander Ziegler were the signatories. The agreement aims to “help fill the funding gap under the Smart City Mission and the funds provided by the Central and State Governments for the purpose”.
- An MoU was signed between the National Institute of Solar Energy, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy and the National Solar Energy Institute, France, under which both countries will work on projects in ISA member countries in the areas of solar energy (solar photovoltaic, storage technologies, etc.) through transfer of technology and collaborative activities. Ambassador of India to France Vinay Kwatra and Administrator, Commission for Atomic and Alternate Energy, Daniel Verwaerde, were the signatories.