PARIS: The radiant smiles said it all: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande sported ‘Paris in April’ blossoms as they unveiled 17-odd pacts in areas ranging from civil nuclear energy, defence and space to smart cities, business, tourism and the promotion of cultural heritage.
Celebrating this new spring in the multi-hued India-France relations, the two leaders went on a boat ride on the lovely Seine caressed by the gently fading sun. It was a time for bonding, camaraderie, small talk and big dreams.
Rafale show: Deal done
The new Rafale deal was easily the show-stealer as Mr Modi announced at a joint press conference on April 10 with the French president that India will buy 26 Rafale jets from France in fly-away condition, ending months of “deal or no deal” speculation that has stalked this multi-billion dollar plan. The announcement triggered a wave of jubilation among the top French leadership, with Mr Hollande profusely thanking the Indian prime minister for his decision to do the 36-jet deal in an inter-governmental agreement.
“Keeping in mind critical operational necessity of fighter jets in India, I have talked to him (Hollande) and requested for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition as quickly as possible under government-to-government deal,” Mr Modi said, kindling a bright satisfied smile on the face of the French president.
“This shows that our strategic partnership has reached new heights,” said a beaming Mr Hollande.
“There is no such sphere where India and France are not cooperating. France is among India’s most valued friend,” cheered Mr Modi.
Boost for Make in India
Mr Modi, too, has many reasons to be pleased at the big thumbs-up he got from the French leadership and the elite French business community for his Make in India campaign. The business confidence in the India Story was reflected in the two round tables Mr Modi addressed on infrastructure and defence with the crème de la crème of the French corporate world present at the interactive meetings. The Make in India commitment was reflected in a pact on forging cooperation between Indian and French railways for semi-high speed rail link and station renovation and pledges by French defence majors to undertake co-development of high-value weaponry. The Modi mission of 100 smart cities was cheered on by the French president, and was reflected in a pact on joint planning and research in the area of modern urban infrastructure.
France can make a big contribution to India’s development, Mr Modi said.
Selling the India Story
In his trademark confident style, Mr Modi pitched the India Story to French investors with panache. “There is no bigger market than India. It is also the fastest growing economy since the last six months. Various rating agencies like World Bank and Moody’s have said in one voice that India is the fastest growing nation,” he told the French CEOs.
“It is rare to find a country with a market, with the government determined on development and demographic dividend.”
“Investors are usually worried about the security of intellectual property (IP). Only democracies like India can guarantee that,” he said.
Green and Clean
Mr Hollande signalled his confidence in the world’s fastest growing economy by French companies to support India’s sustainable development with 2 billion euros investment by French companies and sought New Delhi’s support for the success of the global climate change summit Paris will host later this year.
Nuclear deal on fast-track
Besides the headline-hogging new Rafale deal, there was some cause for cheer in India in the sphere of civil nuclear energy as a pact was signed between French nuclear giant Areva and India’s L&T, which aims at cost reduction by increasing localisation to improve the financial viability of the project to set up six EPW reactors in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. The pact envisages the transfer of technology and development of indigenous nuclear industry in India. Another pre-engineering agreement between Areva and NPCIL signalled the joint strategic resolve to fast-track the setting up of France-built nuclear plants in India. France was the first country to sign bilateral civil nuclear agreement with India after the landmark waiver by the Nuclear Suppliers Group that brought India inside the global nuclear tent.
The robust tradition of space cooperation was telescoped in four pacts between ISRO and CNES, which would prove to be a big asset in collecting meteorological date to boost India’s agricultural transformation. Fittingly, the two leaders jointly released commemorative stamps celebrating 50 golden years of mutually empowering space partnership.
Deepening Strategic Partnership: Focus on Terror
The summit meeting between the leaders of India and France was clearly a success as the two sides scored triumphs in defence, nuclear energy, space and business – the four pillars of their robust strategic partnership.
Underscoring a striking convergence of interests on strategic issues, the leaders of India and France spoke about building closer cooperation in a host of cross-cutting areas, including terrorism, cyber security and maritime security. Expanding counter-terror cooperation was identified as a core strategic imperative as the French president aired his strong condemnation of the release of the Mumbai terror mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, with Mr Modi reciprocating the concern by underlining that India was one with France when a French satirical weekly was targeted by terrorists in January this year.
The joint resolve to deepen strategic partnership was complemented by a raft of pacts on promoting cooperation in the areas of culture, heritage conservation, tourism and people-to-people contacts.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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