French President Emmanuel Macron during his State Visit to India from 10 to 12 March 2018 held wide ranging discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that underlined the growing convergence between the two countries on regional and international issues as the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to deepen and strengthen bilateral ties based on shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law and respect for human rights furthering it. India-France Strategic Partnership on its 20th anniversary seems finally to have come of age as the two countries stepped up their engagement to a new level by quietly and swiftly concluding the reciprocal logistics support between their Armed Forces. They have gradually enhanced cooperation in diverse fields covering civil nuclear, defence, space, counter-terrorism, education, research and development in science and technology, culture, urban development, climate change, trade and economics and people-to-people contacts.
- India and France on March 10, 2018 joined hands in ensuring freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Announced a new phase of cooperation in space security focussed on developing shared space studies and assets for maritime awareness provide the basis on which to strengthen joint naval exercises.
- Had a fresh logistics agreement that will allow their defence forces to closely cooperate on mutually agreed operations. The agreement is symbolic of the strategic depth and maturity reached in India-France defence ties.
- Signed agreement regarding Exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information between India and France, reflecting the high level of strategic trust between the two countries. Also agreed to create an annual defence dialogue at the ministerial level.
- Reflected a Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, crucial 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, for building maritime domain awareness, for capacity building and for greater coordination in regional/international fora in the region.
- Affirmed their intention to enhance the level of joint military exercises and maintain the operational quality-level of these exercises in the future.
- Noted satisfaction on-schedule progress in the implementation of acquisition related agreements, including the Rafale aircraft agreement signed in 2016; and on commissioning of INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene submarine made in India by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd., in collaboration with Naval Group, the French shipbuilder.
- Affirmed industrial way forward between NPCIL and EdF, that work at Jaitapur will commence before the end of 2018. Once installed, the Jaitapur project will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, with a total capacity of 9.6 GW. It will contribute, in addition to renewable energy, to achieving India’s goal of 40% non-fossil energy by 2030. (NPCIL -Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is a government-owned corporation of India and EdF – Électricité de France S.A. is a French electric utility company, largely owned by the French state).
- Business summit witnessed nearly $16 billion worth agreements which indicates that private sectors in both countries are beginning to take notice.
- Indian industry engagement reflected as two significant agreements signed between EdF and other French entities and L&T and Reliance, respectively
- Smart Cities flagship programme in which France is focussing on Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry is taking shape as more than half the business agreements signed related to electric mobility, water supply, waste management and smart grids.
- Educational links: signed 14 MoUs between educational and scientific institutions, the most significant being focus on youth and student exchanges. Currently about 2,500 Indians go to France annually to pursue higher education, compared to more than 250,000 from China. A target has been set to raise it to 10,000 by 2020.
- Tourism has received attention as a target of a million Indian tourists and 335,000 French tourists has been set for 2020.
- International Solar Alliance by bringing 61 countries, India and France are proposing an alternative leadership model for the less developed world, challenging the geopolitical power structure configured around fossil-fuel energy resources, that would ensure cheaper solar energy and increase avenues for financing, by Macron’s assertion that $1 trillion is needed to reach the ISA goals by 2030: India and France have so far committed $1.4 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively.
India-France Strategic Partnership has already created a solid foundation; other aspects have now received the much needed focus and with proper implementation, it can add to the growing strategic convergence that draws India and France together. There has been a growing convergence of interests in maritime cooperation. Like India, France has expressed concern about China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean Region. French overseas territories in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans provide it with the second largest exclusive economic zone globally. It has long maintained bases in Reunion Islands and Djibouti and established one in Abu Dhabi in 2009. This regional dimension is reflected in the Vision Statement on cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.