Indo-French ties free from sudden shifts and surprise: Jaishankar

India’s ties with France are based on a great sense of trust and it is a relationship that has been free from sudden shifts and surprises seen in other cases, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said.

In an address at a think-tank in Paris, Jaishankar said India and France intend to create better options for countries in the Indo-Pacific region and enable them to make sovereign and free choices as they should neither be subjected to domination nor caught in a binary power rivalry.

The external affairs minister said New Delhi is specifically looking forward to France as a key partner in the defence and industrial sectors and “ambitious ideas” for collaborative defence ventures in India are being explored that will support common interests in the Indo Pacific as well.

He said India sees France as a trusted collaborator in countering security challenges from the seabed to space and from cyber to oceans. “Through the tumult of our times, India’s relations with France have continued to move forward on a steady and clear course. It is a relationship that has been free from sudden shifts and surprises that we sometimes see in other cases,” Jaishankar said at the French Institute of International Relations on Tuesday.

“In India, there is a great sense of trust and confidence in the relationship. It is deeply institutionalised and benefits from a strong political consensus on its importance. I believe that we have seen the same here in France,” he said.

Delving into the finer aspects of the ties, Jaishankar said France has never hesitated to voice its own positions on key issues and its lack of dogmatism contributed to building a strong partnership with a rising power like India. “We saw that, for example, when it came to a complex issue like accommodating India in the global nuclear order,” he said.

Jaishankar said France was also an important influence in the development of India’s strategic thinking, especially its nuclear force posture. “Indeed, the very concept of credible minimum deterrence was derived from the learnings of French experience. Not just that, after the 1998 nuclear tests, France was the first nuclear power to show an understanding of our strategic compulsions,” he said.

He also said that French support played an important role in India getting an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 to resume international cooperation in civil nuclear energy.

Referring to the Indo-Pacific region, Jaishankar said developments there and ensuing regional order will have a direct impact across the world, including in Europe. “What is at stake is the credibility of a rules-based order and the efficacy of the international system. India is at the strategic centre of this region; France represents its two bookends with a vast EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zones),” he said.

The external affairs minister said India sees France as a resident power in the Indo Pacific region which is vital for its peace and stability. “We both seek a free, open and inclusive region. And, we both have multiple, inter-linked partnerships with a positive agenda to address the challenges and advance stability and security in the region,” he said.

Describing France as an “important bridge” for India to the European Union, Jaishankar said a key expectation today is French support for the launch of negotiations between India and the EU on trade and investments.

He said there are two areas of national interest for India where India is looking forward to France as a key partner. “One is in the realm of defence and security. We see France as a trusted collaborator in countering security challenges from the seabed to space, from cyber to oceans,” he said.
Jaishankar said France is also among the foremost countries as India seeks to build industrial self-reliance in the defence sector, with a sense of urgency and priority.

“In this, we draw inspiration from the national self-sufficiency France has itself built. Naturally, given the history of our defence partnership, we are exploring ambitious ideas for collaborative ventures in India. This will support our common interests in the Indo Pacific region as well,” he said

“The other area is the transformation of our industrial sector. Like France, India, too, saw the erosion of its industrial base, and like France, we are determined to restore it, especially with emphasis on the industries of the future. The Indian economy is experiencing a strong rebound, with a growth of 9.2 per cent,” he added.

Jaishankar said the political comfort and trust in the relationship added to the attractiveness of India for French businesses.

“The agenda of our partnership is truly extensive. So, whether it is India’s own national transformation agenda, or the future of the Indo-Pacific region and its maritime commons, the advancement of plurilateralism or the reform of multilateralism, or indeed addressing global challenges, we count on France as amongst our most important partners,” he said.

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