Issue 1, September 3, 2006
India and France have traditionally enjoyed friendly and deep relations that include periodic interaction between their leaders from the 1970s. Bilateral relationship significantly strengthened in the last decade into a long-term partnership model. Both countries have taken definite steps to ensure periodic cultural exchanges.
With the development of the Indian economy, there has been a sharp increase in exchange of visits at the highest level that started in January 1998 with the visit to India by President Chirac. This visit was followed by several visits in both directions by senior leaders, Ministers, Parliamentarians, opinion makers, and officials. Based on a similar vision of a multi-polar world, both nations have endeavored to create a greater understanding to increasingly focus on realizing a long-term relationship.
To further this understanding, the nations have developed an elaborate dialogue architecture which evolved with political initiatives to provide a framework for regular, structured consultations between France and India on many issues of mutual concern. Apart from the annual consultations between the two foreign ministries at the Foreign Secretary level, the nations have created a high-level Strategic Dialogue, a focused biennial Joint Working Group for Terrorism, Indo-French High Level Committee on Defense, and an Indo-French Joint Committee on Economic & Technical Cooperation. In addition to these official forums of interaction, the ‘Indo-French Forum’ (launched in 1998 and last met in Paris on 13-14 October 2003) brings together representatives of the two countries from the fields of art, culture, science & technology, business and academia.
Historical Bilateral Treaties and Agreements
The Agreement on Cultural, Scientific and Technical Cooperation of 1966 forms the bedrock of collaboration in Audiovisual and Cinema, Cultural and Artistic Exchanges, Heritage, Museology and Conservation, Books and Publications. This Agreement also facilitates Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) and the last one was for 2004-2006.
Recently, the two nations have signed a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement in 1997, Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, and Indo-French Extradition Treaty 2003. A Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties on Criminal and Civil Matters (MLAT) has also been finalized and may be signed in the near future.
In February 2006, India and France signed 9 pacts on civil nuclear co-operation, closer co-operation in space, commerce, education, tourism, environment, culture, and civil aviation.
France has supported India ’s bid to become a permanent United Nations Security Council member citing India ’s robust economy, defense capabilities, non-proliferation record, and democratic values.
France says that it vehemently supports the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and said it will lobby for India with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) but will not supply nuclear fuel till the NSG has approved the deal. It has also promised to lobby the influential Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and hardliner countries in the NSG to support the deal.
Business & Economy
With the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, economic and commercial linkages have dominated bilateral relations. Bilateral trade has risen sharply from €165 million in 1995 to €3.29 billion in April 2005. Balance of trade is in India ’s favor at €383 million. In March 2005, an approved French investment in India is valued at USD 1.736 billion but actual Foreign Direct Investment is USD 760 million. French investments have mainly been in fuel (Power & Oil Refinery), chemicals, cement & gypsum products, glass, and food processing industries. There is also a lot of interest in power, hydrocarbons (petroleum and petroleum products), telecommunications, auto components, agro-industries, drugs and pharmaceuticals, environment, water resources management and waste management. Major French companies such as Lafarge, Alstom, Alcatel, St. Gobain, Air Liquide, L’Oréal, Danone etc. are already operating in India.
India is interested in selling leather products, textiles, plastic, polymer, software, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, paper, artifacts, spices, Ayurvedic products, auto-components, and agricultural products.
The two countries have set up Joint Working Groups to regularly work on Information Technology (IT), Telecommunications, Energy, Mining, Ports, Roads, Urban Development, Agriculture, and Food Processing under the Indo-French Joint Committee on Economic & Technical Cooperation. The last meeting was held in Paris in December 2005.
Several significant economic developments have taken place in the last 8 months:
Science & Technology
The Indo-French Commission for Cooperation in the fields of Science, Education and Culture has sponsored two panels The Indo-French Joint Committee for Scientific and Technological Cooperation (IFJCSTC) and Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme (IFCEP). Under these agreements, an Indo-French Center for the Promotion of Advanced Research (IFCPAR) was created in New Delhi in 1987 and funded by both nations that finances joint research projects, bilateral workshops, seminars, and exchange visits.
Premier science, cultural, student, and educational organizations of the two nations have collaborated on several fronts including:
· The Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
· Cooperation Agreement between the CNRS and Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India .
· Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and French Space Agency CNES
· Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale.
· Indian Chair in College De France
· Indian Professor of Sanskrit sponsored by the Government of India at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III
· Institute of French Studies (IFP) in Pondicherry
· Exchange programme between the MSH (Maison des Sciences de l’Home) and the Indian Council for Social Sciences Research (ICSSR), UGC, Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), Indian Council for Philosophical Research (ICPR)
· The French Government has set up a Centre for Human Sciences (CSH) in Delhi to promote studies in political sciences and international relations.
· Government of India offers sixteen scholarships to French nationals wishing to specialise in Indian studies including fashion designing, management, political and social sciences, culture, and science and technology.
· The French side offers scholarships in the fields of French language, public administration, fine arts, mass communication, etc.
· Two or three trainees from the Indian Administration visit France every year to pursue long-term studies (duration ten and a half months) at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA).
· The two nations along with 5 others are collaborating to define a futuristic fast reactor with closed nuclear fuel cycle capable of generating 300-500 GWe nuclear energy that will meet specific futuristic safety, economy, non-proliferation, technology, environmental, waste management, and infrastructure requirements.
· During President Jacques Chirac’s visit to India in February 2006, he offered India technologies that would reduce Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) emission from using fossil fuels.
· India also imports latest equipment to test samples of birds for the presence of the dreaded bird-flu.
· India along with 6 other nations (including France) will be working on the International Thermonuclear Experiment Reactor (ITER) project aiming to make atomic fusion the next major source of energy under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiative. The Institute of Plasma Research , which has developed two small fusion reactors, will lead India ’s participation to supply crucial components like cryostat, steel shield inside the reactor vessel, ion-cyclotron heating system, a diagnostic neutral beam, and cooling water and cryo-distribution system. Located at Cadarache in France , the ITER project is a sequel to India ’s participation in the European Center for Nuclear Research’s (CERN) large hadron collider project with indigenously designed and developed equipment.
As culturally vibrant nations, India and France have taken great care to spread cultural awareness and bonhomie between their populations:
In the last decade, Indian and French defense cooperation has increased with periodic interactions, cooperation, exercises, and purchases.
While India and France have made concerted efforts to develop their relationship, especially in the last decade, the scope and extent of relationship does not do justice to the potential that the nations have. For example, India can learn a lot from France on running and maintaining fast trains, metros, and developing tourism. Similarly, France can find enough investment opportunities in infrastructure, civil aviation, and defense cooperation. The current thread of development is oriented towards selling and buying but not focused on strategic partnership building.
Philosophically, strategically, and politically, India and France have several common areas. The leaders of both nations need to focus on this to forge newer partnerships in business, peacekeeping, research, and cultural development.
Business & Economy
Science & Technology
Defense & Security