Macron’s visit has been a suc­cess on many lev­els

In­dia sees France as a net se­cu­rity provider in the In­dian Ocean and in­tends work­ing with it to pro­mote sta­bil­ity

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Comment - KAN­WAL SIBAL Kan­wal Sibal is for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

As far as out­comes go, Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s visit to In­dia stands out for its strate­gic con­tent. While France was the first coun­try with which we de­clared a strate­gic part­ner­ship and be­gan a strate­gic di­a­logue; strate­gic con­sid­er­a­tions have not stu­diously guided the growth of our ties. The mean­ing of “strate­gic part­ner­ship” can al­ways be broad­ened to in­clude eco­nomics and other ar­eas, but it is in the do­main of se­cu­rity that the con­cept ex­presses it­self most cred­i­bly. Our de­fence pro­cure­ment process is un­able to ac­com­mo­date “strate­gic” de­ci­sion mak­ing, which is why French par­tic­i­pa­tion has been un­even, with some strik­ing suc­cesses such as the Scor­pene and Rafale con­tracts; but notable set­backs in bag­ging con­tracts for re­fu­elling air­crafts, he­li­copters and short range sur­face to air mis­siles even when ten­ders were won and joint projects ap­proved.

While the trans­la­tion of the un­de­fined con­cept of a “strate­gic part­ner­ship” into de­ci­sion mak­ing at the gov­ern­men­tal level in dif­fer­ent ar­eas will re­main a fluid propo­si­tion, In­dia and France have taken de­ci­sions dur­ing Macron’s visit that are man­i­festly strate­gic in in­tent and sub­stance. They are im­por­tant in the con­text of wide­spread con­cerns about the un­cer­tain­ties that have be­gun to mark the global sys­tem as a re­sult of Don­ald Trump’s er­ratic for­eign pol­icy pro­nounce­ments and the un­veil­ing of China’s hege­monic am­bi­tions on land and sea. Both In­dia and France in­tend to co­op­er­ate to ad­dress the con­se­quences of Amer­ica’s in­ward look­ing and pro­tec­tion­ist poli­cies, its will­ing­ness to re­pu­di­ate in­ter­na­tional ac­cords and weaken in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions that it has it­self spon­sored, as well as the in­sta­bil­i­ties that China’s self-ag­gran­dis­e­ment is gen­er­at­ing in the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion and the power im­bal­ance it threat­ens to pro­duce, with con­se­quences also for Europe.

In­dia has now firmly ac­cepted France as a net se­cu­rity provider in the In­dian Ocean (IO) and in­tends work­ing with it to pro­mote sta­bil­ity there. Emu­lat­ing a sim­i­lar In­dia-US move, In­dia and France have agreed on a “Joint Strate­gic Vi­sion of In­di­aFrance Co­op­er­a­tion in the In­dian Ocean re­gion”, flow­ing from which a Re­cip­ro­cal Lo­gis­tics Sup­port Agree­ment has also been signed. The in­ten­tion is to as­so­ciate other strate­gic part­ners and es­tab­lish tri­lat­eral di­a­logues, for which the first can­di­date could well be Aus­tralia. The In­dia-France Joint Vi­sion for Space – an­other ma­jor strate­gic doc­u­ment emerg­ing from the visit – en­vis­ages the pur­suit of the study of a con­stel­la­tion of satel­lites for mar­itime sur­veil­lance. The third doc­u­ment of strate­gic im­por­tance signed dur­ing the visit is on the “ex­change and re­cip­ro­cal pro­tec­tion of clas­si­fied or pro­tected in­for­ma­tion”, which re­flects the grow­ing strate­gic trust be­tween the two coun­tries.

Stronger In­dia-France strate­gic un­der­stand­ings have been re­flected in the joint state­ment in var­i­ous other ways. The ro­bust paras on ter­ror­ism call for halt­ing “cross­bor­der move­ment” of iden­ti­fied ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions threat­en­ing In­dia. All UN mem­ber states are called upon to im­ple­ment UNSC Res­o­lu­tion 1267 des­ig­nat­ing ter­ror­ist en­ti­ties, which points to China’s ob­struc­tion­ism on des­ig­nat­ing Ma­sood Azhar as a ter­ror­ist. France has reaf­firmed its strong and ac­tive sup­port for In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group. With the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive in mind, France has joined the US, Japan and the EU in stress­ing that con­nec­tiv­ity ini­tia­tives must be based on key prin­ci­ples of in­ter­na­tional norms, good gov­er­nance, rule of law, open­ness, trans­parency, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, prin­ci­ples of fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, ac­count­able debt fi­nanc­ing prac­tices, and must be pur­sued in a man­ner that re­spects sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity. The ref­er­ence to “sovereignty” is im­por­tant in the light of our op­po­si­tion to the CPEC.

The joint state­ment strongly en­dorses the nu­clear deal with Iran. On Syria, where the po­si­tions of the two coun­tries dif­fer, that the two sides were able to craft a suit­able para­graph is a draft­ing achieve­ment. In the con­text of the Trump’s trade-re­lated broad­sides and his de­ci­sion to im­pose tar­iffs on steel and alu­minium im­ports, In­dia and France have reaf­firmed the cen­tral­ity of rules­based mul­ti­lat­eral trad­ing sys­tem. The launch­ing of the In­ter­na­tional So­lar Al­liance jointly by Macron and Modi fur­thers the ob­jec­tives of the Paris Agree­ment on Cli­mate Change and forges one more strate­gic bond be­tween In­dia and France.


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