The India-France partnership is reaching new levels as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Emanuel Macron met in New Delhi to sign 14 agreements in areas that showcased the depth of confidence in each other.
Covering nuclear energy, defence production, maritime security, space and education, India and France are in the process of cementing a partnership that could soon eclipse the old trusted friend, Russia.
It would not be a stretch to say that the only other country with which India works on as many areas in is the US. For the first time with any G-7 country, India and France decided to recognize each other’s university degrees, which will be huge for students going to France for higher studies or for employment.
Modi met Macron at the airport on Friday evening, making a break from protocol a benchmark for the “Indian welcome”. Addressing the media after discussions with Macron, Modi laid out three important areas where the two countries are working together. “We have intense and deep defence relations and we consider France as one of our most trusted defence partners… We welcome the commitment of France for Make in India in the defence sector. I consider today’s agreement of the reciprocal logistics support between our armed forces as a golden step … therefore today we are releasing a Joint Strategic Vision for our cooperation in the Indian Ocean area.
And third, today we have made two important agreements, one agreement is to recognize each other’s educational qualifications, and the second agreement is of our migration and mobility partnership.”
In an agreement that will have far-reaching implications for the global security equations in the increasingly contested, the two countries agreed to reciprocal logistics support between both armed forces including the navies — in the spirit of the LEMOA pact with the US, Indian and French forces would be able to access each other’s ports and bases in the Indian Ocean region. France is the second country, after the US, with which India has a “vision” document on the Indian Ocean. Seen together with another pact to protect classified information, the security agreement will open up the two sides to much closer cooperation in the strategic sphere. Clearly done with a view to countering growing Chinese power in the region, the agreement will be a force multiplier for India. Macron, in his remarks, asserted the sea lanes cannot be places for hegemonic power play.
Equally important is the pact on education, specified in a joint statement issued after the talks “for the mutual recognition of degrees, which will facilitate the pursuit of higher education by Indian students in France and French students in India and enhance their employability.” This is probably the first such agreement with G-8 country, with France aiming for over 10,000 Indian students studying in France by 2020. Macron wants to shift India’s gateway to Europe from the UK to itself. With Macron pushing for a greater French role in the EU and the world, the complementarities between India and France are increasing.