“France wants India as its first strategic partner in Asia, and it wants to be India’s first strategic partner in Europe, and even the western world,” said French President Macron as the two countries inked 14 crucial agreements in New Delhi, signalling a “big leap” in the bilateral relations. Macron’s was an unambiguous gesture reflecting the deepening of strategic ties between the two countries. The comprehensive nature of the agreements covering defence, economic, nuclear energy and energy security, among others, was an indication of growing convergence between the two countries in the times of dispersed and diverse security threats with global balance of power under transition. Though India and France have maintained cordial relations since the cold war times, the potential of their strategic partnership appeared to have remained largely underutilised. The recent visit by the French President to New Delhi may well be considered as a major breakthrough in strategic ties between the two countries as they are responding to their convergence of interests like never before.

A major highlight of the visit, apart from signing deals worth $16 billion, was the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), co-chaired by India and France, with the presence of the heads of state of 23 countries and ministerial representatives from 10 other nations. An idea mooted by PM Modi and enthusiastically promoted by France under then President Francois Hollande was an expression of the two democracies willing to shoulder the responsibility of a global problem when major powers were retracting from their responsibilities. The fact that India was one of the few developing countries to not only support the Paris accord, but also playing a key role in successfully negotiating the deal and working to promote the alternative sources of energy was well recognised by the Paris. The ISA is an excellent example that speaks of the willingness of the two countries in leading a global discourse and action in dealing with the climate change.

Modi and Macron also discussed broad range of bi-lateral issues, including terrorism. Apart from the customary condemnation of the terrorism, one of the major takeaway for India was the mention of specific terrorist organisations having roots in Pakistan like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayabba along with the terrorist groups threatening peace and security in South Asia in their joint statement. The specific references to these organisations implied the French recognition of Indian sensitivities with regard to crossborder terrorism and state support for the same.

The most significant takeaway, however, was the headway in the defence partnership with special focus on maritime security. The identification of ‘common threat’ was unambiguous when Macron said “a strong part of our security and the world’s stability is at stake in the Indian Ocean” and that “oceans cannot become a place of hegemony,” further pledging that “stability in the Indian Ocean region is very important for the stability of the entire region, and we are with India for freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific.” French interest in Indian Ocean Region is indeed intelligible. Despite possessing substantial overseas territories, including in the Indian Ocean Region, France has consciously maintained a low profile regarding its overseas islands. In the recent times, however, France has been increasingly active with the ‘oceanic concerns’ given its interests not only in the Indian Ocean, but also in the Pacific.

Identification of China’s growing assertiveness in the seas as a matter of concern may well be a dominating factor in France’s increased focus on these overseas territories. France has repeatedly assessed the growing presence of China in the Indo-Pacific as a possible impediment in its freedom of action at sea. Strong strategic ties with India to safeguard its interest in the IOR vis-à-vis China is certainly in the interest of France. France have accordingly been attempting to forge closer ties with India. Though there was hint of enthusiasm in the Indian response initially, it soon appeared waning due to domestic political realities during the UPA administration. The new government under PM Modi provided a great opportunity to reboot the strategic ties.

Modi government, which has shown an inclination towards forging and deepening strategic ties with countries of converging interests, was quick to reach out to France. Modi was among the first visitors in Paris after Macron took the office. Modi’s visit was soon followed by high level official visits from both the countries to finalise the contours of emerging strategic partnership and the outcome of which was the finalisation of the purchase deal for 36 Rafale air fighters. A significant aspect in India’s favour in the deal is that a large part of the production will now be in India. Along with that, six Scorpene class submarines will also be entirely built in India. This will provide a boost to PM’s Make in India programme in the defence production. However, the most significant outcome in the defence ties is the signing of the strategic defence pact between the two countries, providing for the use of each other’s military facilities.

The ‘LEMOA-like’ arrangement between India and France is extremely critical as it will help India in filling the strategic space, especially in the western Indian Ocean region, which is extremely critical due to the presence of major SLOCs. France has three critically located bases in the western Indian Ocean — Abu Dhabi, Djibouti and the Reunion Island. The reunion, strategically located between the Madagascar and Mauritius, houses one of the largest French Naval bases. The availability of these bases will surely help to strengthen the security architecture India is attempting to build in the region. In the eastern Indian Ocean, India is well placed with strong a base in Andaman and Nicobar islands. Apart from that, emerging alignments in the region like that of Quad and India’s deepening of strategic ties with countries like Vietnam, Japan, Australia and the US individually will further help to augment its capabilities in the eastern Indian Ocean. Now with the defence pact with France, along with the existing arrangements with Oman, Seychelles and Mauritius provides a solid base to expand Indian capabilities in the western Indian Ocean as well. The defence pact with France therefore is extremely critical.

China’s expansion in the Indo-Pacific has triggered unprecedented changes in the global order. The relentless rise of China is providing a natural push for countries like India and France to deepen their strategic partnership. Apart from that, the growing convergence of interests and the willingness to co-operate has brought the two countries closer than ever before. President Macron’s visit has thus solidified the base for a more entrenched strategic partnership between the two countries.

Courtesy: ORF



Imparting a new energy to New Delhi’s Look West policy, India and Jordan have taken their security cooperation to a new level by signing a defence framework agreement and inked a clutch of agreements in diverse areas.As countries that face the common threat of terrorism and extremism, India and Jordan have also decided to bolster their cooperation in counter-terrorism and deradicalization.

The talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jordanian King Abdullah II in New Delhi on March 1 have deepened strategic dimension of the burgeoning India-Jordan ties. The major takeaway was the signing of a defence framework agreement that covers areas like training, defence industry, counter-terrorism, military studies, cyber security, military medical services and peace-keeping.

The focus on expanding defence and security ties was evident during the visit of King Abdullah II to the National Security Guards (NSG) headquarters in Manesar where the group’s skills in the field of counter-terrorism were displayed. He was also given a presentation on India’s indigenous ALH-Dhruv (Advanced Light Helicopters) at the Palam Technical Airport the day before.

Besides defence, the two sides signed agreements in the fields of health, manpower building, cultural exchange, fertilizer, customs, education and media. A visa waiver agreement was also inked. The healthcare agreement includes mutual cooperation in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), advancing the services and IT in health, promoting research, developing the treatment facilities for TB, and regulation of pharmaceuticals and medical devices etc.

Through the fertilizer agreement, a production facility will be set up in Jordan for long-term rock phosphate and fertiliser supplies. Setting up of a Hindi language chair at the University of Jordan and a centre of excellence for providing training to around 3000 Jordanian IT professionals over a period of 5 years were also agreed upon.

Along with the exchange of agreements, India and Jordan reiterated their support for Palestine with Jordan emphasizing India’s “very significant” role in West Asia. “We are also looking at closer security cooperation keeping in mind the tremendous experience which Jordan has in the region”, said Mr T.S Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Promoting moderate Islam

One of the key highlights of Jordan’s monarch’s visit was enhanced cooperation between India and Jordan in promoting moderate Islam and pluralism. This was exemplified at an inter-faith conference in Delhi, which was addressed by PM Modi and King Abdullah-II. “Terrorism has no faith or religion,” this was the overarching message emanating from the conference, which was attended by eminent Muslim scholars and intellectuals.In his special address at a conference on “Islamic Heritage: Promoting Understanding and Moderation”, Jordan’s King Abdullah-II said: “Today’s global war on terror is not between religions, it is the fight of moderates against extremism and extremist ideology.”

Underlining pluralistic values of India, Mr Modi stressed that the fight against extremism and radicalisation was not against anyone any religion. “Indian democracy is a celebration of age-old pluralism. Every religion found life here, it grew here,” he said.


India and Canada have signed six pacts and decided to fast-track negotiations for two defining agreements to expand their economic relationship. It was a clear signal that although Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s indulgence of Sikh separatists will remain a thorny issue, but for now the two sides have not allowed it to hijack their relationship.

On the last leg of his week-long tour that has been hotly debated, Mr Trudeau met his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on February 23 and discussed a wide range of bilateral and global issues.  After the talks, the two sides signed six agreements in the fields of energy, sports, higher education, intellectual property rights and cooperation in science, technology, innovation and electronics.


The nearly two-hour meeting between the two leaders included discussions on expanding trade and business partnership, with a promise of intensifying negotiations to finalize Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and the Bilateral Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement that are hanging in the balance for seven years now. The constraint on the export of pulses has been another major issue after India had imposed a 50 per cent tariff on chickpea imports from Canada last year. Both sides agreed to expedite the conclusion of an arrangement within 2018 enabling the export of Canadian pulses to India free from pests of quarantine importance, with mutually acceptable technological protocols.


On the energy front both the leaders agreed to initiate an energy dialogue with the announcement of the fourth meeting of the Ministerial Energy Dialogue to be held in Canada this year. Both sides expressed their commitment to make a transition to renewable energy with a special focus on solar power under the International Solar Alliance. India will continue to import uranium from Canada for peaceful use of civil nuclear power and will be engaged in enhancing collaboration in nuclear science and technology with Canada.


Given the fact that Canada is a popular destination for a large number of Indian students pursuing higher education, an MoU on higher education was inked by the two sides. Around 124,000 Indians study in Canada. A MoU on sports was also adopted in an effort to promote greater exchanges beyond academia.

Reviewing the security situation

Extensive talks were held regarding the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan, the Korean Peninsula, the rehabilitation of the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state in Myanmar and the recent crisis in Maldives. Both the leaders also expressed commitment to the UNCLOS and the need to respect freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the Indo-Pacific. India and Canada agreed to extend their bilateral defence cooperation in areas like cold climate training, enhancing naval interactions, and staff exchanges.

Modi’s message to Canada

During the media interaction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that any challenge to India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity could not be tolerated under any circumstances, therefore sending out a strong signal to the Trudeau administration not to continue pandering to pro-Khalistani separatists. An invitation by the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Jaspal Atwal, a Canada-based former member of a banned Sikh separatist group, had to be withdrawn after the authorities discovered that Atwal had been convicted of trying to kill an Indian Cabinet minister during a 1986 visit to Canada. He was, however, present at the Mumbai reception of Mr Trudeau. Mr Trudeau, however, insisted that he supports a united India.





Announcing a ₹500 crore Operation Green for the development of the agricultural sector Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has reinforced the focus of the government in increasing the income of farmers and raising the minimum support price.

Presenting the Union Budget for the fiscal year 2018-19, the minister proposed an Agri-Market Development Fund with a corpus of Rs 2000 crore and the upgradation of rural haats to Grameen agricultural markets. In increasing the Minimum Support Price of all cropsto at least 1.5 times that of the production cost, he promised the full support of the government in ensuring the payment of full MSP even if farmers sell below MSP. He proposed the introduction of Kishan credit cards.

Mr Jaitley also announced the linking of the agricultural produce market committee (APMC) with the electronic trading portal ENAM. The government will set up 22,000 Gramin agricultural markets. The budget also envisages the development of organic farming by providing the necessary encouragement to farmer-producer organisations, rural-producer organisation and women self-help groups will be encouraged. He announced a favourable taxation policy for farmer production companies by allowing a 100% deduction these registered companies having Rs 100 crore as turnover irrespective of profit.

There has also been a proposal to liberalise export of agricultural products. The minister expressed his optimism regarding the potential of the agricultural exports to reach $100 billion against the current figure of $30 billion. The budget allocates ₹1,290 crore for the development of the bamboo production sector under a restructured national bamboo mission.

“My government is committed to the welfare of farmers… My prime minister gave the clarion call to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. We consider agriculture to be an enterprise and want farmers to produce more on the same land and also get better returns from their produce,” Mr Jaitley said.




With defence cooperation becoming a key pillar of their partnership, India and Vietnam have decided to engage more effectively in maritime cooperation against the backdrop of growing Chinese assertion in the South China Sea. In a bilateral meeting on January 24, ahead of the India ASEAN Commemorative Summit, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc discussed ways to strengthen and expand their defence ties, with a special focus on the disputed waters of the South China Sea where China continue to construct artificial islands claiming historical rights.

In maintaining respect for international law, both sides agreed to uphold the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and called for an effective and legally-binding Code of Conduct in the East Sea. India will be collaborating with Vietnam in oil and gas exploration in the latter’s exclusive zone and continental shelf with a view to increase its presence in Southeast Asia. This energy cooperation is bound to elicit protests from China.

After the talks between their leaders, India and Vietnam signed a pact in the field of information and broadcasting and another agreement between ISRO and the National Remote Sensing Department of Vietnam for setting up a tracking and data reception station and data processing facility in Vietnam.

Besides defence, trade, capacity building, connectivity, technology transfer and people-to-people contacts also figured in the discussions.The two sides also focused on upscaling their economic ties to achieve the trade target of $15 billion by 2020. In this regard, they discussed enhancing airline and maritime connectivity and doing away with trade barriers. The Vietnamese prime minister sought India’s assistance in areas like capacity-building and English language improvement, technology transfer and credit supply for national defence. India has assured its support through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation, the Quick Impact Projects and long-term scholarships to Vietnamese students in prestigious Indian universities along with the establishment of vocational training centres in Vietnam.



Buoyed by India’s growing economy and its rising global profile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poised to pitch the India growth story to the international political and financial elite at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos. Mr Modi’s overarching message will be “India is open for business,” also the theme of the promotional campaign India has launched in Davos. Mr Modi will speak on the theme for the 2018 WEF, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” and India’s role in the world.

In his plenary speech, PM Modi is expected to highlight pathbreaking economic reforms taken by his government which have led to enhanced ease of doing business. India jumped 42 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business last year.“In recent years, India’s engagement with the outside world has become truly and effectively multi-dimensional covering the political, economic, people to people, security and other spheres… At Davos, I look forward to sharing my vision for India’s future engagement with the international community,” Mr Modi said ahead of his visit to the picturesque Alpine town of Davos.


“The existing and emerging challenges to the contemporary international system and global governance architecture deserve serious attention of leaders, governments, policymakers, corporates and civil societies around the world,” Modi added in his statement.

Besides delivering his address to a gathering of around 1500 people, Mr Modi’s engagements in Davos include a bilateral meeting with Swiss President Swiss Alain Berset, a round table dinner with 60 CEOs from 26 different sectors and an interaction with 120 international business leaders who are also members of the International Business Council. The focus will be on the recent structural reforms undertaken by the government in banking and taxation, the GST roll out and the drive to crack down on black money.

Mr Modi is accompanied by a heavyweight delegation that includes, among others, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Industry, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the PMO Jitendra Singh and Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will also be part of the Indian delegation.





More than nine years ago, when terrorists opened fire at Nariman House, it was a miraculous escape for two-year-old ‘Baby Moshe’ who was rescued by her Indian nanny Sandra Samuel. He has, since then, come to represent a story of tragedy, love and hope, marking an emotional connect between India and Israel. It was a moment of joy when the Jewish Chabad House, popularly known as Nariman House, hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and eleven-year-old Moshe Holtzberg for the unveiling of a state-of-the-art Living Memorial to commemorate the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror mayhem.

“What happened here represents the polar opposites of love and hate, the hatred perpetrated by the terrorists, but it also expressed tremendous love. The love of your parents Gabi and Rivky to you Moshe, and the love that is expressed by the Chabad House here in Mumbai and the love that is expressed by the embracing and loving attitude of the Chabad emissaries around the world which embraces and provides a loving home for every Jew around the world,” Mr Netanyahu told Moshe, who was accompanied by his paternal grandparents, Nachman Holtzberg and Frieda Holtzberg, maternal grandparents, Shimon Rosenberg and Yehudit Rosenberg, and uncle Moshe Holtzberg. His Indian nanny, who was awarded the title of ‘Righteous Gentile’ by Israel as the highest award presented to non-Jews, was also present at the occasion. Moshe, who now lives with his grandparents in the Israeli city of Afula, also read out a welcome speech for the Israeli prime minister.

Still bearing the bullet marks, Nariman House was where Moshe’s parents Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg lived.

Mr Netanyahu also unveiled a plaque in memory of the Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries. The Memorial, which is being built by the Chabad Trust of India, will also include the Holtzbergs’ apartment and the floors where the carnage took place. Expected to be open to visitors on November 26, 2018, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attack, the Memorial is designed to inspire people of all faiths and backgrounds to relentlessly work towards building peace.

“The Living Memorial will not only be a fitting tribute to the victims who fell prey to the bullets of the terrorists, it will inspire the belief that every individual has the ability and responsibility to make the world a better place,” said Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, in-charge of Nariman House.

Around 30 leaders of the Jewish community from Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad and Panvel met Mr Netanyahu. “We told him we feel happy and safe in India. Jews get homely treatment here and every opportunity in school, college and in the private sector,” said Moses Elijah, secretary of Beth El Synagogue in Panvel.

(Pritha Mahanti contributed inputs for this article)



Underlining the civilizational and democratic connects between India and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, in his speech at the third edition of the Raisina Dialogue talked about the need to build power in an increasingly insecure world.“The weak don’t survive. The strong survive. You make peace with the strong. You ally with the strong”, he said like a true realist.

The Israeli leader outlined four types of power- military, economic, political and the power of values- that democracies like India and Israel should focus on. Therefore, building submarines, cyber capabilities, science and technology, interceptors are an essential component of the developmental goals.

An alliance of strong and powerful democracies, according to him, would be able to provide a fitting counter to the menace of radical Islam that is the biggest roadblock top peace and prosperity in the world today. “Our way of life is being challenged — most notably, the quest for modernity (and) the quest for innovation (are) being challenged by radical Islam and its terrorist offshoots from a variety of corners,” he said. Strengthening security and defence cooperation remains a major agenda in the dialogues during the on-going visit of the Israeli Prime Minister.

Mr Netanyahu had generous compliments for the Indian Prime Minister and his good friend Mr Modi for the economic revolution spearheaded by him especially the tax reforms. He mentioned that he was ‘astounded to know’ that India had moved up 42 places in the Ease of Doing Business rankings in the past three years. “If you want to have economic power, you must reduce and simplify taxes” Mr Netanyahu said acknowledging the government’s roll out of the GST.

On his TajMahal visit earlier in the day the Israeli Prime Minister harped on the democratic qualities that bind the peoples of two nations. “Democracies bind and connect to each other in natural ways. I saw sympathy and friendship of people. When I walked in streets of India, just like in Agra, someone said to me, we are so happy that you are friends with our PM, we are friends with you & Israel”.

Also present at the event were Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister SushmaSwaraj. Organized jointly by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation, the three day foreign policy conference began on January 16 with more than 150 speakers and over 550 delegates participating in it.The theme of this year is “Managing Disruptive Transitions: Ideas, Institutions and Idioms”






India-Israel economic relations are poised for a decisive transformation, with the fusion of India’s size and scale with Israel’s sharpness and edge.Pitching economic ties onto a higher trajectory, India and Israel jointly launched the ‘I4Fund Call for Proposal’ website as part of the maiden call for the joint research and development (R&D) initiative. Under this $40 million fund, both sides will pursue technological innovations in areas such as water, agriculture, energy and digital technologies and create a support structure to convert “know-how” into “show-how”.

Speaking at the India-Israel Business Summit in New Delhi, which included 100 delegates from 74 Israeli companies, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Israel’s “remarkable spirit of innovation, enterprise and perseverance” and underlined the shared commitment to connect the talent pool of both sides towards achieving path-breaking technological advances.

“The role of business and industry is crucial in the transformation of our ties. It is your combined efforts that will add real value to our interaction and produce concrete successes,” said Mr Modi.“Given the scale of the Indian economy and the relevance of cutting-edge Israeli technologies for us, even sky is not the limit for what we may achieve together!”

“India has size and scale. Israel has sharpness and edge. There would be many ideas and technologies that can be useful for or can be commercially scaled up in India,” he said.With Israel’s “sharpness and edge” in Water Tech, Agri-Tech and food processing and conservation techniques, India hopes to match its formidable demographics where 65% of the population is below 35 years.

“In India, we have been taking steady steps over three years at both macro as well as micro-level, to make a difference. Our motto is: Reform, Perform and Transform. The results are two-fold. On the one hand, our procedures, processes and systems are getting aligned with the best in the world. Secondly, we are able to maintain the pace of faster growth”, the prime minister said.The government has been actively engaged in a Star-up promotion campaign and it hopes to harness the India-Israel Innovation Bridge to enable better linkages between the industries, start-ups and the academic institutions of both the countries.

Highlighting the improvement in India’s global rankings as a positive result of economic reforms like the introduction of GST and financial technologies and digital transactions, Mr Modi announced his vision of a “knowledge-based, skill-supported and technology-driven society” through initiatives like Digital-India and Skill-India. As a rising manufacturing hub, India has seen a 40% rise in FDI inflows with the government moving towards greater liberalization like opening up the defence sector, 100% automatic route FDI in single brand retail and construction development, and opening up the national carrier, Air India, to foreign investors. With a number of Israeli companies collaborating with their Indian counterparts under the Make in India programme, India and Israel together hope to utilize the full potential of innovation, adaptation and problem-solving capabilities.

Announcing the India-Israel Innovation and Technology Conclave to be held in India in July 2018, Mr Modi also encouraged active engagements in addressing challenges like environmental degradation, scarcity of water and food wastage.Israel’s Trade Commissioner Ohad Cohen struck a positive tone on economic relations, saying Mr Netanyahu’s visit would pave the way for the proposed Israel-India free-trade agreement.



Hugs, personal bonding and effusive sentiments about India-Israel relations marked the first few hours of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s maiden trip to India.In a special gesture, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi went beyond official protocol to personally receive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Delhi airport. Mr Modi’s trademark hug and warm expression of friendship set the tone for six-day visit of the Israeli leader to India. Mr  Netanyahu is leading a delegation of 130 businessmen from 102 Israeli companies and expects to take relations between the two nations together with the Indian leader to “new heights”.

“Indian Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine and I appreciate the fact that he will accompany me on extensive parts of my visit,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said just before leaving for New Delhi.After the arrival the leaders headed for a ceremony to rename Teen Murti Chowk in central Delhi as Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk, in memory of the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who carried out a brave assault to liberate the Israeli port city of Haifa during the First World War.

India and Israel are set to scale the relations in diverse areas, including defence, security, innovation to agriculture and water technology cooperation. The two countries are expected to sign a clutch of agreements in areas like oil and gas, renewable energy, amended protocol for airports, cyber-security, and co-production of films and documentaries.

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