Millennium Post

Helping France gain lost stature

The state visit of the French President François Hollande to India, his very first to any Asian country since he assumed office in May 2012, is a milestone in Indo-French strategic ties. The economic implications of the visit is of towering importance, particularly as it  comes in the midst of an economic crisis in the European Union, which has been especially severe to France. The growth rate in France has been low, with the Eurozone shrinking in all four quarters of the last year. Even the Cour des Comptes, the French national auditor, in its annual report, has summarily declared that France has little chance of meeting its targets. With factories closing all across and industrial production stalled, France is in such dire straits that the socialist President is having a hard time dealing with the repercussions of the fiscal crunch. France is in desperate need of lucrative contracts. However, Hollande has certainly not come holding a begging bowl, precisely because France regularly outperforms India as far as production and manufacturing are concerned. Moreover, as the Indian economy, too, is in doldrums, the two meet at a momentous cusp of time, with military, economic and strategic partnership between them having huge potential for mutual benefits.

The current talks on the $12-billion deal for acquiring 126 Rafale fighter jets between India and France, also has a significance far beyond the immediate defence implications. France has been concerned about India’s role in Afghanistan, particularly after the withdrawal of the American troops. A strategic tie-up with India, in this context, also appears to be reassuring for France, which is worried about the relentless rise of China and its supervisory function in the Asiatic region. France may like India to play a larger role in the region, but is unsure of its intentions, as India has a muddled foreign policy, which is in the process of undergoing tectonic shifts in terms of forging alliances and affiliations. France’s friendly overtures, being one of the first suppliers of nuclear equipment and explicitly stating that it does not have a problem with India’s civil liability clause, are also reasons for taking this international friendship forward. With France having bowed out of the race to lead the EU policy decisions, India can contribute significantly to restore the formers lost stature.
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