India is poised to rejuvenate its multi-pronged strategic partnership with France, a top arms supplier and a leading backer of New Delhi’s global nuclear entente, during French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’ visit to the country.
This will be the first ministerial visit from a European country since the Narendra Modi government took charge over a month ago, and signals Paris’ keenness to ramp up ties with the new dispensation in Delhi.
Fabius, a former prime minister of France, is expected to carry an invitation from President Francois Hollande to Mr Modi to visit Paris. The visit, well-placed sources said, could take place by the end of the year or early next year.
The talks in Delhi June 30 between India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her French counterpart are expected to focus on scaling up economic ties, resolving lingering issues to fast-track civil nuclear cooperation and expanding the canvas of strategic partnership between the two countries. The signing of a clutch of preliminary pacts on higher education will underline the increasing salience on bolstering innovation-driven knowledge partnership between the two countries.
France, a key member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a robust backer of Delhi’s global nuclear accommodation, is expected to seek clarity from the Indian side on the new government’s approach towards implementing the civil nuclear liability law, which provides for stiff compensation in case of a nuclear accident. The clarifications are important as they will enable French nuclear giant Areva to fast-track the construction of nuclear reactors in India. Four years ago, India’s state-run Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd had inked a pact with Areva SA to buy two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) each with a capacity to produce 1,650MW of electricity and uranium supply for a period of 25 years at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. France plans to build six such units in Jaitapur by 2018.
The defence relations, which are moving from the buyer-seller mode to co-development and co-production, are also expected to figure in the discussions. France is expected to seek an early closure of around $20 billion deal to sell India 126 French Rafale fighter aircraft. Issues relating to technology transfer are hobbling this maga defence deal. The two sides have officially reiterated many a time that there is no timeline for the conclusion of the deal, but with the Modi government expected to be more decisive in defence procurement, the deal could move faster towards a finale.
Besides bilateral issues, the two countries are also expected to discuss the festering crisis in Iraq, Syria and the deepening sectarian divide in the Gulf region. Intensifying counter-terror cooperation and exchanging perspectives on the shape of the post-2014 dispensation in Afghanistan are also going to figure in the discussions.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief with India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, an-magazine and journal focused on international affairs and the India Story)
- 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.