India and France last week vowed to collaborate in critical sectors, including defense, space, critical technology, and sustainable urban development, as both nations marked the silver jubilee year of their strategic partnership.
Paris and New Delhi also resolved to step up collaboration in high-end digital technologies, such as supercomputing, cloud computing, AI, and quantum computing during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. Modi was the chief guest at the Bastille Day parade this year.
Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron also issued a joint statement signifying the various key agreements and developments within the bilateral relationship.
Among the key agreements signed included the French Development Agency’s $112 million funding for the second phase of India’s sustainable cities program “CITIIS 2.0”, along with the European Union and KFW of Germany.
The agreement included a $30 million commitment from French development finance institution Proparco for the South Asia Growth Fund (SAGF III), which will invest in companies promoting energy efficiency, clean energy, and optimization of natural resources in the region.
The joint agreement, however, was silent on the additional three Scorpene class submarines that India reportedly wanted urgently, apart from an agreement for the joint development of engine for fighter jets with French aircraft equipment maker Safran.
Harsh V. Pant, professor of international relations at the King’s India Institute, King’s College London, told Press Insider that there is no need to conclude that the deal for Scorpene and co-development of aviation engines for fighter jets is off the shelf for India.
“There must be a few nuts and bolts that are yet to be finalized related to some of the aspects of agreements, and that is why they are not mentioned in the joint agreement. It is likely that these deals will be moving forward, and both the countries are trying to figure out the exact way in which defense technology sharing needs to happen,” Pant said.
Both countries agreed to strengthen their cooperation on cutting-edge digital technology, particularly on supercomputing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.
An agreement between Atos, a European multinational information technology (IT) service and consulting firm headquartered in France, and India’s ministry of earth sciences for the supply of supercomputers worth over $111 million also found mention in the statement.
Professor Pant, who is also vice-president, studies and foreign policy at Observer Research Foundation think tank, said the relationship between both nations is moving into a new orbit in defense and high-end technology transfer.
Both countries have agreed to boost scientific and commercial partnerships through several agreements between France’s CNES and the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro); including for reusable launchers; finalization of a joint Earth observation satellite, TRISHNA; the first phase of the constellation of maritime surveillance satellites in the Indian Ocean; and the protection of Indo-French satellites in orbit against the risk of collision.
The joint statement also acknowledged the successful and productive cooperation between India and France, which has been ongoing since their shared strategic vision for the Indian Ocean region was adopted in 2018.
The joint statement said both countries agreed to “adopt a road map for collective actions in the Indo-Pacific”; and finalize an Indo-French development fund for joint funding of sustainable development projects in the Indo-Pacific region.
A commentary published last week in the foreign policy research body Centre for Strategic and International Studies said France, more than the Quad group comprising India, Australia, Japan, and the US, has a direct stake in the security and stability of the Indian Ocean region because of its territories in the southern Indian Ocean and military bases in the northern Indian Ocean, Djibouti, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Unlike the US, both India and France share a similar geographical understanding of the region, and the engagement between both the countries will remain a central pillar as France has decided to position itself in a pivotal role to articulate a responsible agenda for the region,” Pant said.
“The other platforms that are emerging include a trilateral partnership with Australia or the United Arab Emirates; and both are critical to the stability of the region,” Pant said, adding that more such relations are likely to emerge in the near future.
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