On 26th January,2016, India celebrated its 67th Republic day. The chief guest of India for this beautiful occasion was French President Francois Hollande. Along with the usual exercises, there was a distinct but very important activity in the Republic Day Parade. India witnessed the participation of French troops- the first ever by a Foreign Contingent since Independence. It certainly unveils the emergence of France as India’s most trusted International Partner.
Although India increased the number of joint military exercises and MoU’s since 1990’s, New Delhi was incapable of Imaging the role of India’s armed forces beyond territorial defence. Narendra Modi, since he became Prime minister of worlds biggest democracy in May, 2014, has recognised the potential of military partnership in modernising India’s defence and enhancing India’s strategic weight in the International system. The marching of the French Contingent clearly suggests that India’s foreign policy has begun to pay off.
This is not the first time, India and France are involved in joint military partnership. France had invited Indian troops to join the Bastille Day Parade back in 2008. It certainly gave many hints to the world of the new military combination. The invitation was an acknowledgement of India’s contribution to the world war 1 and 2. The UPA governments bold decisions to unveil nuclear and military cooperation with the United States and new partnerships with China and Japan clearly was appreciated by the French with this move. Things unfortunately could not continue because of the bad performance by the UPA-2 in its foreign policy under defence minister A.K. Antony.
France has always stood for India’s nuclear and space programs. It’s leaders, despite of both the countries being in opposite camps during cold war, made repeated attempt to construct a special political -strategic relationship with India. Continuing the tradition, President Hollande, too, is eager to consolidate the strategic partnership with India and implement various unimplemented key agreements.
The Indo-French relations became so bad in recent past that it took 10 months for India to make a deal with France for Rafael air fighters, and the negotiations are still not concluded. This clearly shows how difficult the task is.
According to C. Raja Mohan, consulting editor on Foreign Affairs for ‘The Indian Express’, PM Modi sees a special role for Paris in Delhi’s global calculus for three main reasons.
First, India’s relation with the Americans, the Chinese and the Britishers will always retain different degrees of difficulty due to their constant support to Pakistan. Russians as well are wooing the Chinese and coming closer to Pakistan due to its own problems. France, in fact, has made a clear choice in favour of India.
Second, France becomes critical for India in promoting a measure of balance on the Eurasian Landmass. It can help India to strengthen its security in the maritime domain.
Third, India certainly cannot support America’s world supremacy to neglect China’s dominance. France, with common ambitions, gives India a stable partner for constructing a more equitable world.
All Delhi is supposed to do is accept France’s friendship to develop a new world order and Implement its ideas.
With India sharing Liberty, Fraternity and Equality with France, indeed, a very Happy Republic Day to my fellow Indians. Jai Hind!