Editorial: Geopolitical waltz
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was recently invited by President Emmanuel Macron to the Bastille Day parade in Paris, an occasion that turned out to be strategically significant for both India and France.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was recently invited by President Emmanuel Macron to the Bastille Day parade in Paris, an occasion that turned out to be strategically significant for both India and France. The meeting of the two heads of state was aimed at taking defence cooperation between the two countries to a new level. The announcements included the procurement of 26 Rafale-M fighters to operate off India’s aircraft carriers for which the Defence Acquisition Council had accorded preliminary approval.
The two nations will also collaborate on joint development of an engine for the Indian multi- role helicopter, being designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. India is also planning to set up a Technical Office of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) at its embassy in Paris. The two countries are looking at new areas of cooperation, which include defence, steel, space, energy and civil nuclear — all of which have been charted out in a roadmap titled Horizon 2047.
With regard to the people-to-people initiatives, it was announced that Indian students pursuing master’s degrees in France will now be given a five-year long-term post study visa instead of the earlier two-year work visas after their graduation. An announcement of the installation of celebrated Tamil poet-philosopher Thiruvalluvar’s statue in the Cergey prefecture was also viewed as a show of solidarity with the Tamil and Indian immigrant population of France. Often, big ticket assurances pertaining to defence procurements hog the limelight in any such visit.
However, with regard to these two nations, an overarching philosophy of engagement lies at the heart of their relationship. The fundamental notions that bind the two countries are — non interference in the internal affairs of each nation; maintaining strategic autonomy in affairs; and last, but certainly not the least, abstaining from pulling each other into their respective alliances or coalitions.
On one hand, France has refrained from dropping any remarks regarding India’s internal affairs or even its stance on foreign policy. Having joined the Western alliances in rebuking Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Paris hasn’t really expected New Delhi to perform an about-turn on its relationship with Moscow, something many other nations in the global north have been asking us to do.
This works both ways as New Delhi also did not object to President Macron’s visit to China in April, where he said that Europe cannot be a vassal state to the US vis-a-vis its Chinese policy. Interestingly, such voluntary abstinences by the two nations in offering commentary are visible in matters of an internal nature as well. In spite of violent protests erupting across France due to the mistreatment meted out to immigrant communities, PM Modi found no reason to reschedule his Parisian sojourn.
Similarly, France did not make any reference to the European Parliament’s critique of India on the issue of violence in Manipur; the allegations of human rights abuses; intolerance towards members of the minority community; as well as crackdown on civil liberties in the country. Such selective aloofness, or do we call it amnesia, might probably be the reason why the two nations could serenade each other in this 25th glorious year of strategic partnership. It’s a geopolitical waltz without the burden of judgment, so long as the two do not step on each other’s toes.