“Horizon 2047”: A new era in India-France Relations

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Recently, the Indian prime Minister was invited as the chief guest at the Bastille Day Parade to celebrate the 25th anniversary of India-France strategic relations. In the course of this visit, both countries sealed several agreements and defense deals signifying a freshness in India-France relations. Moreover, a roadmap termed as “Horizon 2047” has sets the stage for a new era in India’s relationship with France.

Background of India-France Relations

India and France have a long-standing and friendly relationship. In 1998, they entered into a strategic partnership that not only strengthens bilateral ties but also signifies their convergence on various international issues. However, if we go back approximately 250 years to the late 18th century, we can find a strong relationship between Tipu Sultan (ruler Mysore) and the French government. They not only supported each other but also respected each other’s ideologies. Tipu Sultan supported the French Revolution’s ideas and planted a tree in Seringapatam known as the “Tree of Liberty.” The French government honored Tipu Sultan with membership in the famous Jacobin Club, and he was also known as “Citizen Tipu” in France.

India-France Relations

Strategic Partnership

After India conducted its nuclear tests in May 1998, something interesting happened between India and France. While many other countries decided to impose sanctions on India, France took a different approach. Instead of putting sanctions they showed a deeper understanding of India’s security concerns. This understanding led to France becoming the first country to engage in a Strategic Dialogue with India.

France and India have always shown mutual respect for each other’s strategic autonomy. France has restricted itself from making any comment on internal and external affairs of India. India has also shown the same gesture by refraining from making any comment on the violence in France which involved the killing of a teenager belonging to the Algerian immigrant community.

Civil Nuclear Cooperation

India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 during the reign of Indira Gandhi and the second test in 1998 during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was in 1998 when India was threatened by the western countries through sanctions. It was France which did not support the sanctions on India and termed it as India’s defense necessity. France not only supplied uranium to the Tarapur reactors but also signed a civil nuclear deal with India in 2008. Moreover, France has supported in establishing six European Pressurized Reactors at Jaitpur(Maharashtra).

Joint Stand at International Platforms

Both India and France have always been against the concentration of power and have supported the idea of multipolar world order. France has been a constant supporter of India’s claim for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and has supported India’s claim for reforms in the United Nations. The path of India attaining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), its inclusion in the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) and the Australia Group (AG) would have been difficult without the support of France. France also supported India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). France warmly welcomed India’s initiative of International Solar Alliance and joined it too.

Maritime Relationship

With a common aim to secure maritime and to promote free, fair and open trade in the Indo Pacific region both India and France have started joint patrolling in the Indian Ocean. In September 2022, India and France agreed to establish an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund. This fund aims to support the countries in the Indo-Pacific region. India and France have also involved UAE in a Trilateral Initiative to enhance maritime awareness and security in the region.

Space ties

India and France have shown collaboration in the field of space exploration and satellite technology. The space agencies of both the counties i.e., ISRO and CNES are planning for joint Mars mission and a joint Earth Observation Mission.

Economic Partnership

There is a strong economic partnership between India and France. French businesses and industries have established relations with the Indian economy and have made significant contributions to India’s goal of becoming self-reliant. There are over 1000 French businesses in various sectors in India. France is the 7th largest foreign investor in India, representing 2% of total FDI inflows in India (2020).

Defense Cooperation

India and France have been regularly conduction joint military exercises namely Varuna (Navy), Garunda(Air Force) and Shakti (army). India has inducted French Scorpene submarines and Rafale Fighter Jets under technology transfer agreement 2005. Tata group has tied up with the French Airbus to manufacture C-295 tactical transport aircraft in Vadodara (Gujarat).

Operation Shakti

Apart from all these cooperations both the countries provide mutual recognition to the academic degrees and are collectively involved in the fight against the climate change. India has supported France in the Paris Agreement and France has joined International Solar Alliance as a gesture of gratitude.

Horizon 2047

This Visit resulted in the new phase of strategic plan for the next 25 years and it has been termed as “Horizon 2047”. Horizon 2047 is based on the three key points. These are:

1) Partnership for security and sovereignty

2) Partnership for the planet

3) Partnership for the people.

The sphere of this agreement between India and France is very wide and covers areas such as defense, space and nuclear energy. The Horizon 2047 also aims at addressing climate change and promoting green transformation for a sustainable future. This visit focused on strengthening education ties and to further deepen the relations between the two nations. Ultimate aim of Horizon 2047 is to foster diverse collaborations and enhance the existing programs for the mutual benefit of both countries.

So, let’s hope that the friendly relation between both the countries continues and results in the sustainable development of both the countries and the countries lying in the Indo Pacific region.

Challenges in India-France Relations

1)  Although both the countries have good relations but there is no free trade agreement yet.

2) Both the countries have good defense cooperation, but their ideologies are different as India give priority to neighborhood first and non-aligned policy.

3) Trade imbalance is a big challenge in the relationship where export from France to India is huge.

4)  Increasing dominance of China in the Indo-Pacific region adds up to the challenge on India-France relations.

When both the countries are tied together with number of partnerships and historical background, they can collectively work to overcome the challenges and look ahead with the Horizon 2047 plan for the sustainable development and establishment of peace and harmony in both the nations.

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