Indo-French Relations

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Context:

  • Macron needs to implement domestic reforms for Indo-French ties to flourish.

Rich cultural exchanges:

  • There have been rich cultural exchanges and expressions of mutual appreciation between India and France in the past decade while the per cent change (YOY) in total trade between India and France has plunged from +30.07 per cent in 2006 to a dismal +0.37 per cent in 2016.

Scientific and technical cooperation:

  • In 2017, around 5,500 Indian students and scientists found it worth their while to study in France. Whereas almost 15,000 students went to the UK during the same period. Many of France’s top universities, including the one I studied and now teach at, offer courses in English but perhaps few Indians know this. An education in France is also several times cheaper than a degree in the UK or the US but ultimately Indian students go where they get more jobs for their buck.

Strategic Relations:

  • France was the first country in the West with which India established a strategic partnership and the first with which India initiated a strategic dialogue after our 1998 nuclear tests when France refrained from imposing sanctions on us.
  • Leaders from no other country have been honoured as many times as chief guests at India’s Republic Day celebrations.
  • Besides education and culture, France and India have also built a long-standing cooperation in nuclear, defence and space. More recently, the vision for the International Solar Alliance was established jointly by the two countries.

Economic relations:

  • Bilateral trade between India and France has increased significantly over the past fifteen years.
  • At present, more than 1,000 French subsidiaries from a wide spectrum of sectors are present in India, employing a workforce of around 3,00,000 persons.
  • France has also collaborated with India under the ‘Smart Cities’ initiative taken up by the Modi government.

Climate change & Technologies:

  • Climate change has emerged — and rightfully so — as a new cornerstone of the relationship between the two countries. Both countries now need to leverage this political alignment towards creating meaningful joint ventures, and develop technology and knowledge exchanges in this field for all to benefit.
  • France is ahead on the curve of developing technologies that minimise the environmental impact of manufacturing processes.
  • These are technologies that the Indian manufacturing industry can learn and adopt as the latter gets subjected to strict emission limits and stringent compliances by the current Indian government.
  • Moreover, the climate change industry is estimated to reach a value of $1 trillion by 2020, presenting an opportunity for France and India.

Attracting the best of Indian talent:

  • The protectionist stance of Brexit and Donald Trump also presents an opportunity to France. French universities can attract the best of Indian talent. In the realm of literature too, why not make greater collaborations? This will boost the publishing industry and also foster a rich exchange of ideas across the two countries that are both known for great literary writing.

Way Forward:

  • France also needs to make reforms on his home turf in order to transform friendships into greater economic opportunity for all. The heavy bureaucracy in France must be loosened so it doesn’t stifle the life out of potential incoming investments.
  • French labour laws need to be reformed such that corporations are more agile when doing business abroad.
  • And diplomatic agencies can be more confident of India’s friendship and appreciation for France, so that more efforts can instead be directed towards joint action.

Source:IE