French President Francois Hollande’s just concluded three-day visit to India has indicated a major shift in New Delhi’s foreign policy.
In recent years, India has established itself as a formidable international player that is playing a central role in different important global issues, like climate change, energy markets, security and terrorism, and multilateral financial institutions. In the past, the South Asian country held an unusual position in international system. Despite being a liberal democratic country, India was not a part of the Western alliance. It was also not a part of the Asia-Pacific rim. Even India, constitutionally a socialist country, declined to sign up with the Soviet Union mainly because of its strategic interests which are so unique.
India has strengthened ties with the US in the last 10 years and the nuclear deal between the two countries has helped the South Asian powerhouse remove its technology shackles and pariah status of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. However, India continues to avoid purchasing frontline weapons platforms from America. Also, India has problems with other countries, like Russia, which is increasingly becoming obedient to the diktats of China. While the US drives very tough bargains, Russia lacks technology, capital and diplomatic heft, and China has adopted Pakistan as an all-weather ally for containing India in its own backyard.
In such a scenario, it becomes important for India to maintain close ties with countries, such as France and Israel, which have independent, but advanced capabilities in defence, energy and high-technology areas. For India, France has also become a reliable strategic ally on the global stage. The European giant not only helped limit international sanctions against India after the 1998 nuclear tests, but also supported its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). France further emerged as an interlocutor for India in the European Union and the West.
The Indo-French relationship should not be overshadowed by the Rafale deal. The two countries, which have a fine strategic partnership going, have agreed to take their relations to new height. President Hollande, acknowledging the need for India to have lifetime guarantee of nuclear-fuel supply, assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi of uninterrupted supply. He also reaffirmed Paris’ support for India’s candidature for a permanent UNSC membership.
President Hollande’s tour of India has reached further than the spheres of economics and geopolitics. Now, it is up to Prime Minister Modi to consolidate India’s strategic partnership with France, in particular for the national security, with more co-operation. PM Modi will have to implement decisions made during his meeting with President Hollande.