French Defence Minister Florence Parly’s visit to India, for the induction ceremony of the Rafale, is a ringing endorsement of the cooperation between two nations in a multipolar world. Paris’s vigorous checks against Beijing’s nuisance value to create instability is seen as a case in point.
France’s Defence Minister Florence Parly touched down in India and her visit once again sent out a statement of intent that India-France ties were being continuously re-examined and strengthened in a multipolar world with both nations set to boost defence and trade ties while establishing a strong presence in the Indo-Pacific.
For the moment Parly is focusing, as an official statement put it, to participate in the Indian Air Force’s formal induction of French-origin multi-role fighter aircraft, Rafale. Her visit is intended at solidifying France’s “defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner”, according to the French Embassy in India.
The Indo-French partnership is loaded with promise that the best is yet to come. France has backed this up by ensuring that at least 1,000 French companies have established their presence in India and by virtue of that it is a major FDI source with a turnover of $20 billion.
But, for now, the focus is on defence and shoring up India’s equity in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). New Delhi’s stock has risen in the global forum appreciably thanks to the leading role played by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose reputation as a statesman and administrator has soared.
Modi has now forced the United Nations to introspect and examine its archaic policies, laws and procedures in a vastly multipolar world where global dynamics has changed but the UN has been found lagging in trying to keep up.
India’s place in the UNSC is now beyond debate, despite the nuisance value created continuously by China and other smaller fringe actors, and New Delhi’s entry into that inner sanctum is no longer a question of why, but when.
Endorsing India’s credentials further was a statement by Emmanuel Bonne, diplomatic advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron, who admitted that Paris has been supportive of India’s stand on Kashmir and will not allow China to play any “procedural games at the UNSC. “When China breaks the rules, we have to be very robust and very clear and this is the sense of our naval presence in the Indian Ocean.” France also reiterated its proximity to the Quad – a grouping of nations consisting of India, Australia, United States and Japan – and displayed its willingness to conduct naval exercises with them.
Elaborating on Paris’s stance towards India, during a lecture delivered at the Vivekananda India Foundation (VIF), Bonne’s displayed the clarity with which his country perceived its ties with India by stating, “On direct threats to India, we have always been very clear. Whether it be on Kashmir, we have been very supportive of India in the Security Council, we have not let the Chinese play any kind of procedural games. When it comes to the Himalayas, just check our statements, we are perfectly clear. What we say publicly, we say to the Chinese also privately, there is no ambiguity,” he said.
On the bilateral defence and security cooperation, which had already been explored during his discussions with National Security advisor Ajit Doval, Bonne was even more candid saying, “We are sharing information, we are maneuvering together our navies, our air and space commandments are coordinating. We are building capacities and cooperating. When it comes to the Indian Ocean, we are working on maritime surveillance.”
The post-Rafale phase of the India-France relationship (the deal was worth $8.7 billion) has soared in a manner of speaking. The highly acclaimed French fighter jets have been an example of the level of cooperation between the two nations while providing a shot in the arm for ongoing and oncoming manufacturing partnerships between the two countries. The vibes between the two countries will also resonate within the European Union (EU) as India pushes for an FTA with the continent amidst the enforcement of the Brexit between the EU and UK. To further this goal there is little doubt thus far that Modi has a dependable ally in Macron.
There is already enough evidence to suggest that Paris can become New Delhi’s friend for all seasons. A total of 16 agreements were signed between the two countries during Macron’s visit in 2018 in the space of civil nuclear, space, defence with bigger conjunction in maritime security, counter-terrorism, and renewable energy. The cherry on the cake is the International Solar Alliance (ISA), the only multilateral body with its apex presence in India, that will combat global warming.
For the moment, however, the two nations have been locked in a close embrace where defence is the signature tune as Parly’s current visit would seem to suggest. India added five French-origin fighter jets to its air force during a handover ceremony attended by both the French and Indian defence ministers. The Indian Air force (IAF) will receive 31 more Rafales in addition to the five inducted. Clearly, the sky is not the limit as far as ties between the two countries are concerned.