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Editorial Articles


Issue no 18, 29 July - 04 August 2023

Horizon 2047: Blueprint for Enhanced India-France Partnership

Ritesh Kumar

India and France have unveiled a roadmap titled "Horizon 2047" to propel their bilateral cooperation over the next 25 years leading up to the momentous occasion of India's centenary of independence. Additionally, this initiative will commemorate the remarkable 50-year milestone of the IndiaFrance Strategic Partnership. This visionary approach is poised to elevate their relationship to even greater heights. The roadmap was unveiled during Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's recent visit to Paris which laid groundwork for a strengthened alliance across a diverse array of sectors, encompassing defence, climate change, energy transition, space cooperation, the blue economy, multilateralism, and counterterrorism. 'Horizon 2047' deliberately addresses the dynamic global landscape emphasising three crucial pillars: (i) Partnership for Security and Sovereignty (ii) Partnership for the Planet (iii) Partnership for the People. The three pillars hold paramount importance in shaping the future trajectory of India's relationship with France, its most crucial partner in Europe.

Defence Collaborations: In the light of the longstanding strategic partnership between India and France, it comes as no surprise that defence agreements have occupied a central position in the vision for the next 25 years. Notably, France stands as the second largest supplier of arms to India, following Russia. Given Russia's depleting military resources due to the conflict in Ukraine, it is likely that this collaboration will further intensify, as evidenced by the Union Cabinet's recent endorsement of a proposal for procurement of 26 Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Navy.

India perceives France as a vital partner in its endeavor to establish a self-reliant defence industry and technological base. Both nations aim to collaborate in the co-development and coproduction of advanced defence technologies, with a particular focus on benefiting other nations as well. In the realm of military aviation, India and France have a rich history of cooperation spanning over five decades. France's Rafale aircraft has already become an integral component of India's military aviation capabilities. Looking ahead, both countries plan to expand their groundbreaking defence collaboration by supporting the joint development of a combat aircraft engine. Furthermore, they are also engaged in a project to provide propulsion systems for heavy-lift helicopters under the Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) program, with the participation of Safran Helicopter Engine, France. These initiatives foster trust and facilitate technology transfer, exemplifying the successful Indo-French partnership.

India's SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) vision aligns with President Macron's Indo-Pacific Strategy. This convergence of visions forms a strong foundation for comprehensive cooperation, particularly in maritime security and naval cooperation. India and France are already successful in maritime coordination through initiatives like the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), the Djibouti Code of Conduct, and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). France also supports India's aspiration to join the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). A logistics support agreement and the joint pursuit of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative solidify this maritime security partnership.

The Scorpene submarine construction programme (P75 - Kalvari) stands as a shining example of India's "Make in India" initiative and the exchange of naval expertise between India and France. Recognising the potential for further growth, both nations express their willingness to explore more ambitious projects for the development and performance enhancement of India's submarine fleet.

The collaboration between India and France extends beyond specific projects, encompassing a broader defence industrial partnership. Noteworthy instances include the ongoing contract between Safran Helicopter Engine and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the transfer of technology pertaining to the forging and casting processes of the Shakti Engine. Additionally, collaboration between Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd. (GRSE) and Naval Group France in the field of surface ships highlights the depth and prospects of the defence industrial partnership. In line with these aspirations, the Technical Office of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will soon be established in Paris. This office will serve as a hub for technical collaboration and the exchange of expertise.

Shared Interests, Common Vision for Indo-Pacific

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's visit not only reinforced the bilateral relationship, but also emphasised India's central role in France's strategic vision for the Indo-Pacific. Both Delhi and Paris share a commitment to the Indo-Pacific concept, which forms the cornerstone of their cooperation in the region. This alignment goes beyond political and conceptual dimensions, encompassing a shared belief in strategic autonomy, a multipolar world order, and comprehensive geographic understanding. While other nations have varying definitions of the Indo-Pacific, India and France share an expansive view that stretches from the East coast of Africa to the West coast of the Americas. Hence, the trilateral cooperation with like minded partners, exemplified by dialogue with the United Arab Emirates and Australia, forms a crucial pillar of their Indo-Pacific collaboration. Through the establishment of the Indo-Pacific Triangular Cooperation (IPTDC) Fund, India and France aim to support climate and SDG-focused innovations and startups from third countries in the region, facilitating the scaling up of green technologies. This initiative not only provides viable and transparent funding alternatives but also serves as a cornerstone of the India-EU Connectivity Partnership.

India and France share a common objective of extending development cooperation to countries in the IndoPacific region. This includes collaboration in Africa, the Indian Ocean Region, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. India and France both recognise the significance of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific, where a substantial portion of global trade flows and China's assertive actions raise concerns. With 1.5 million French citizens residing in the region, France emerges as the most active European power. While India persistently seeks to cement ties with Western countries, driven in part by concerns over China, the Russia-Ukraine war prompted European nations to diversify their economic dependence. India, viewed as a country capable of balancing China both economically and as a security provider, emerges as a significant partner for European powers. The deepening rivalry between the United States and China has also compelled middle powers like India and France to engage more actively, striving for a multipolar world. With a shared commitment to securing their economic and security interests, ensuring access to global commons, promoting prosperity and sustainability, advancing the rule of international law, and fostering a balanced and stable regional order, India and France are determined to enhance their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. Notably, their focus extends to the Pacific, with the involvement of French territories such as New Caledonia and French Polynesia, highlighting their comprehensive approach to the partnership.

The International Solar Alliance initiated by India and France also demonstrates their commitment to renewable energy deployment in the Indo-Pacific region. Both countries propose that start-ups in the Indo-Pacific benefit from the Solar X Challenge project. Furthermore, they support initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership and a mangrove conservation initiative focused on Pacific states. The establishment of the IndiaFrance Indo-Pacific Triangular Development Cooperation Fund aims to strengthen development cooperation, while partnerships in the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure contribute to building resilience and sustainability, particularly in small island states. By working together in areas such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, India and France contribute to regional stability and prosperity.

India and France are also dedicated to fostering healthcare and educational cooperation in the region. They plan to establish the Indo-French Health Campus for the Indo-Pacific, which will serve as a regional hub for research and academia. Drawing on the successful experience in the Indian Ocean, the campus may be opened to Pacific Island nationals, fostering knowledge exchange and capacity building.

 Valuing Independence in Foreign Policy: The pursuit of "strategic autonomy" has played a significant role in shaping India's and France's foreign policies, while also fostering mutual support and collaboration. India has embraced this concept since its postindependence years, particularly during the Cold War, while French President Macron has passionately advocated for it at the European level. France has historically maintained an independent stance towards India, even during a time when India faced sanctions from the United States and others as it became a nuclear weapons state in 1998. In fact, France was the first Western country to engage in dialogue with India during that period. The establishment of a Strategic Partnership between the two nations in the same year laid the foundation for their enduring bond, which has transcended challenging times and continues to thrive today. France's recognition of India's right to make independent choices has helped overcome potential areas of disagreement, such as differing positions on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As highlighted in their joint communiqué, this relationship has proven resilient in times of adversity and ambitious in seizing opportunities.

 Revitalising Multilateralism for Global Progress: Committed to shaping a global governance system that resonates with the contemporary realities of our world, both India and France advocate for comprehensive reforms that rejuvenate and strengthen multilateralism. Central to their shared vision is the imperative to reform the Security Council, making it more inclusive and representative of the diverse voices and perspectives that shape our global landscape. With a steadfast belief in the G4 credentials and India's valuable contribution, India and France champion the accession of new permanent members, thereby fostering a more equitable balance of power within the Security Council. Moreover, recognising the urgent need for enhanced African representation, they advocate for greater participation from the African continent among the council's permanent members. Furthermore, both nations emphasise the importance of initiating dialogues on the regulation of veto power usage in the face of mass atrocities, ensuring that this privilege does not hinder concerted efforts to address grave human suffering.

Embracing the Paris agenda, which emerged from the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, India and France demonstrate their unwavering commitment to robust measures that advance development and safeguard the environment. Recognising the intertwined nature of these two critical aspects, they advocate for comprehensive actions that promote sustainable growth while preserving and protecting our planet. By aligning their efforts with the Paris agenda, India and France emphasise the need for collective responsibility and concerted action in tackling pressing global challenges, fostering a world that thrives on the principles of development, equity, and environmental stewardship.

Combating Climate Challenges: India and France, as stalwart allies, join forces to address the profound perils of climate change through a resolute commitment to collaboration. Their partnership focuses on transitioning to a low-carbon economy, ensuring energy security, and achieving the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Together, they prioritize clean energy sources, including renewables and nuclear power, to simultaneously address energy security concerns. In the Indo-Pacific region, they champion sustainable development through initiatives such as the IndoPacific Parks Partnership and the International Solar Alliance, protecting biodiversity, advancing the blue economy, and promoting climate finance. Strengthening cooperation in disaster resilience and responding to climaterelated hazards is a shared priority, alongside innovation in decarbonated hydrogen production and the promotion of solar and hydropower solutions. Energy efficiency, public health initiatives, sustainable fisheries, and the fight against plastic pollution are also key areas of collaboration. Both countries aim to elevate their climate ambitions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 or 2070, while working together on urban transformation, waste management, and sustainable transport to foster circular economies and social inclusion.

Harnessing Technology for Progress and Independence: For both India and France, scientific progress is a priority. Hence, the two countries are steadfast in their resolve to foster greater collaborations on this front, facilitated by the India-France Joint Strategic Committee, focusing on space, digital technology, critical technologies, energy, ecological and urban transition, and health. Collaboration in critical digital technologies, including supercomputing, cloud computing, AI, and quantum technologies, is pursued within the Global Partnership on AI. Both countries aim to enhance innovation and industrial applications of digital technologies to tackle climate change and health-related issues. They intensify collaboration in health and medicine, encompassing digital health, AI for healthcare, biotechnology, and medical waste treatment. The Indo-French Campus for Health in the Indo-Pacific region strengthens bilateral cooperation in the health sector. Commitment to cyber cooperation, digital regulation, and Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) underscores their dedication to secure, open, and inclusive digital ecosystems. Startups play a vital role in driving innovation and job creation, fostering connectivity between entrepreneurial networks. Through thriving ecosystems and collaborations, India and France empower citizens in the digital era. The implementation of India's Unified Payment Interface (UPI) in France demonstrates the two countries' commitment to embrace digital transformation and collaborate on that front. Leveraging technology, markets, and governance, they aim to achieve sustainable development goals and share their approach with countries across regions like the Indo-Pacific and Africa.

Elevating the Importance of Space: India and France have embarked on a path of deeper cooperation in the space sector, forging a strategic alliance that promises mutual benefits and remarkable achievements. At the core of this collaboration lie two pivotal axes: the scientific and commercial partnership, and the resilience of access to space. Within these realms, notable endeavors such as the TRISHNA mission, activities under the Space Climate Observatory, space exploration missions to Mars and Venus, maritime monitoring initiatives, and the Gaganyaan program, which encompasses manned flights, form the bedrock of this transformative partnership. Additionally, the joint efforts of NSIL and Arianespace in commercial launch services signify the shared commitment to advancing the commercial potential of space exploration. Furthermore, India and France are resolute in their dedication to bolstering their synergies and nurturing forwardlooking technologies that fortify their sovereign access to space. To ensure the longevity and efficacy of this collaboration, the recently institutionalised bilateral strategic space dialogue serves as a crucial avenue for sustained engagement, facilitating continuous progress and innovation in the everevolving area of space exploration.

Trade Ties: France has emerged a key trading partner of India with annual trade of $12.42 billion in 2021-22. It is the 11th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of $10.31 billion from April 2000 to June 2022, which represents 1.70% of the total foreign direct investment inflows into India. In contrast to India's robust economic ties with Germany, France ranks lower as an investor and bilateral trade partner. Although steadily increasing, bilateral trade between the two economic powerhouses still falls below its potential. Efforts have been made to address this disparity, including the CEO forum held during the recent visit, yet the conclusion of an EU-India Free Trade Agreement holds the key to unlocking maximum trade potential. Trade and investment also play a crucial role in their partnership, with a focus on resilient value chains and facilitating investments between the two countries. India and France are committed to resolving market difficulties faced by exporters and investors, and they encourage companies to strengthen ties and expand activities in each other's economies.

People to People Ties: Promoting vibrant exchanges, particularly for the benefit of youth, India and France have embarked on a robust partnership. In the realm of education, India and France are dedicated to strengthening academic ties, fostering student exchanges, and promoting joint training programs. France aims to welcome a significant number of Indian students, offering five-year validity Schengen visas for those who complete a master's degree from a recognised French University. The two countries also prioritise linguistic cooperation and cultural exchanges, promoting the teaching of each other's languages and supporting long-term stays for artists and writers. The two countries have drawn a roadmap to further enhance cooperation in areas like museums and heritage, cinema, artistic and literary collaboration, linguistic cooperation, and sports. Additionally, they continue to expand consular services to facilitate people-topeople ties.

(The author is a Delhi correspondent for an international news platform. You can send us your comments at feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal.