France hopes to build on its military contracts after the Indian defense ministry purchased Rafale fighter jets and Scorpene-class submarines. Macron is also hoping France can sell six EPR nuclear reactors…reports Asian Lite News
President Emmanuel Macron arrives as the guest of honor in India on Thursday with a sumptuous palace feast and colorful military parade, as France eyes lucrative deals with the world’s fifth-biggest economy.
Macron will be offered a red carpet welcome by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with dinner in a 19th-century maharaja’s palace, and as chief guest at a military march past with massed ranks of tanks, dancing troupes, camel cavalry and a fighter jet fly-past.
India’s foreign ministry says New Delhi and Paris are “strategic partners,” while the French presidency says the trip will “consolidate and deepen diplomatic and economic relations.”
France hopes to build on its military contracts after the Indian defense ministry purchased French-made Rafale fighter jets and Scorpene-class submarines in multibillion-dollar deals. Macron is also hoping France can sell six EPR nuclear reactors.
Modi was guest of honor at France’s annual Bastille Day celebrations last July, and Macron is set to receive a similar welcome.
The French president, who was in India for the G20 summit in September, travels first to Jaipur in Rajasthan state for dinner with Modi at the Rambagh Palace, a luxury hotel.
Paris and New Delhi collaborate on space and satellite technology, and the French delegation includes astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The visit includes a stop at Jaipur’s 18th-century Jantar Mantar astronomical observation site.
On Friday, Macron will watch a military parade in New Delhi for Republic Day, the 75th anniversary of India’s constitution. Just as soldiers marched down the streets of Paris in 2023, a French contingent will join the military spectacle in New Delhi, as French-built jets roar overhead.
India is “a key partner in contributing to international peace and security,” the French presidency said ahead of the visit. Last year Macron visited neighboring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and also took a Pacific trip aimed at “recommitting” France to the wider Asia-Pacific region.
Macron is slated to visit a Muslim Sufi shrine in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin West neighborhood during his visit. “There are no taboo subjects,” a French presidential adviser said ahead of the visit. “But the goal is to discuss them with respect and with the aim of achieving concrete results.”
Modi-Macron are expected to review the roadmap for the next 25 years laid out in the Horizon 2047 document agreed upon in July last year. For instance, the Indo-Pacific is a major concern for both: France’s Indian ocean territories are vast making it a power in this region while for India, it is China’s maneuvers to take control of strategic waters. Through an Indo-Pacific Triangular Cooperation Fund, both are trying to help scale up green technologies in a region desperate for transparent and viable funding.
A bilateral space dialogue is looking at collaboration in commercial launch services, launchers and manned flights. Also cooperation in fighting terrorism and organized crime. The agenda is vast, and whether in Jaipur or Delhi, Modi-Macron can be expected to push it forward.
In fact, France, although a member of NATO and the European Union, takes pride in being a “free thinker”, developing its own outlook on global issues. India, not constrained by any alliance, values its freedom for manoeuvre in the international system and shapes its own choices.
Both prize their “strategic autonomy” or as President Emmanuel Macron put it, Paris is “allied, but not aligned”, while Dr Jaishankar emphasises something similar: “India is entitled to have its own side”.
Some of these sentiments will be on display over the next two days as Narendra Modi plays host to his Republic Day chief guest Macron on Friday, but not before treating him to a roadshow in Jaipur on Thursday. Important to note that France, while a steady and reliable diplomatic and military partner for India, is not “New Russia”.
Moscow brings far greater clout to the table, whether in terms of its ability to play the international system, its vast resource rich landmass that has made it a key player in the world energy matrix, its Eurasian roots, and even defence where it continues to hold its own as the Ukraine war has shown.
France is a smaller less visible player but its Indian Ocean territories give it huge stakes in this region. Its sophisticated defence industrial base holds enormous attraction for India which is banking on Paris to help develop technological capacities in jet engine design, also helicopter engines, small and advanced modular nuclear reactors and so on.
The two leaders who met in Delhi at the G20 summit in September 2023, will have time and opportunity to discuss progress in the above. Macron may seek faster movement on the Indian Navy’s procurement of 26 Rafale Marine fighters. The Indian Air Force is also looking at growing the size of its two-squadron Rafale fleet by at least two squadrons more.
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