India and France: Growing Ties

India-France 2015

France was the first country with which India entered into an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation following the waiver given by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, enabling India to resume full civil nuclear cooperation with the international community

Traditionally, the bilateral relations between India and France have been close and friendly. There has been a significant progress in all areas of bilateral cooperation through regular high-level exchanges at the Head of State/Head of Government levels. Both countries have been cooperating in strategic areas such as defence, counter-terrorism, nuclear energy and space.

France was the first country with which India entered into an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation following the waiver given by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, enabling India to resume full civil nuclear cooperation with the international community. There is also a growing and wide-ranging cooperation in other areas such as trade and investment, culture, science & technology and education.

Bilateral Trade & Investment Cooperation

In the 2014, India-France bilateral trade increased by 10.6%, led largely by an increase in Indian exports to France which grew by 17.43% in this period. The growth in Indian exports was characterized by a 49.39% growth in export of refined petroleum products and a 28.51% growth in export of apparel and clothing material from India to France, which became India’s top two exports to France. In addition, product lines such as boilers and machinery (10.6%), organic chemicals (8.15%), electrical machinery and equipment (10.08%), marine food products (28.67%), vehicles, other than railways and parts (15.72%) and footwear (16.32%) also registered an increase in exports to France. The French imports from India, however, registered a slight decline (0.49%) in 2014. This was mostly on account of reduction in export of aircrafts to Indian companies (-8.9%). There was an increase in export of iron and steel products, especially iron rails (51.06), mostly on account of export of Metro rails from France to India. Bilateral trade in services has also shown a steady growth in the last four years, reaching Euro 2.9 billion in 2013, an increase of 10.6% over 2012 figures. Indian exports of services to France have been increasing, and were worth Euro 1.6 billion in 2013, an increase of 16.3% over 2012 figures.

France has emerged as a major source of FDI for India with about 950 big French companies already present in India. France is the 9th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of €2.31 billion up to 2012 and French companies continue to look at India as an attractive investment destination in order to expand their profits and diversify risks. Indian companies have also invested in France. Larsen & Tubro, Trans Asia Bio Medical and TCS have made investments in France for making acquisitions.

Potential for Cooperation

The scope for ties is far greater as India is fast tracking its defence acquisition process. Recently, India cleared 44 projects worth Rs 1, 34,000 crore that were critical for the armed forces. “We are trying to fast track our defence acquisition process. One example is bullet-proof jacket. We have already ordered 50,000 bullet-proof jackets and 50,000 more are expected to be ordered shortly,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said. He also said that some critical shortages in ammunitions were being addressed, and that a constant endeavour was made for upgrading the conventional equipment, developing new technologies and acquiring contemporary systems.

Every French president visiting India has been trying to get contracts for the big companies, thus making it clear that France is very much inclined towards what India has to offer. However, the potential has not been explored to the fullest as of now. Less than 800 French companies are settled in India employing almost 150 000 Indian workers. There is a lot of scope in further developing the ties that can help the two countries benefit mutually.

France and India have embarked on a long-termed partnership, which is strategic in nature. The defence dialogue between the two armed forces are held – like the strategic dialogue – in a spirit of mutual understanding, respect, trust and support, taking into consideration respective interests.

India and France have gone beyond the client-supplier relation. The cooperation projects should further improve the indust-rial and technological bases in the defence sector and contribute to strengthening the security of both countries.

France encourages India to come closer to international export control regimes, such as the MTCR for missiles and the Wassenaar Arrangement for Conventional Arms, with a view to adhering to these.

With strengthened strategic autonomy in place, France and India will feel stronger, safer, and closer to each other.

Cultural Cooperation

Indian culture enjoys a wide and discerning audience among the French population. The Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) for 2013-15 was signed during the visit of President Hollande to India on February 14, 2013. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) sponsored in 2013-14 visits of Indian artists to France as also exchange of students in the field of culture and art. A significant number of Indian artists also performed in France on a commercial basis or at the initiative of various local cultural associations, outside the purview of official exchanges.

A revised Indo-French Bilateral Film Co-Production Agreement was signed during the visit of French President to India in December 2010. The 15-month long Indian cultural festival – ‘Namaste France’ held from April 14, 2010 to June 28, 2011 was a comprehensive presentation of Indian culture including art, music, dance, fashion, films, and literature as also business and education. The Festival was organised in response to ‘Bonjour India’, a French cultural festival, organised by the French Embassy in India in 2009-2010. The French Embassy in India has successfully organised the second edition of ‘Bonjour India’ from January-March, 2013. The second edition of ‘Namaste France’ would be held in France from September 15-November 30, 2016.

An MoU was signed on January 26, 2012 between the Ministry of Culture of India and the Louvre Museum with the aim of establishing an active partnership in the area of exchange of competencies and expertise, particularly in the field of museology, temporary exhibitions etc. Louvre Museum aims to hold an exhibition in India in 2016. An MoU was signed between Crafts Museum, New Delhi and Bargoin Museum, Clermont – Ferrand for cooperation in the conservation of textiles in November, 2012 in France.

Educational and Technical Cooperation

The bilateral educational cooperation between India and France has grown over the last few years. The project for construction of an annex for Maison De L’Inde (FMDL), which commenced in July 2012, was completed in October 2013. Under the extension project, 72 additional rooms have been constructed adjacent to the present MDL building. India-France Technology Summit was held in October 2013 in New Delhi and saw participation of 300 French and over 500 Indian representatives from government/research organisations, universities and companies. 750 B2B meetings were held for exploring techno-business partnerships. An exhibition by over 50 Indian and French technology companies from diverse sectors was organised during the Summit. A number of Indian students and scholars visit France under the bilateral exchange programmes.

Railway Sector

There has been longstanding cooperation in the field of railway between India and France. During the visit of President Hollande to India in February, 2013, a joint statement to strengthen the cooperation in the Railways sector between the two countries, and a Memorandum of Understanding for Technical Cooperation in the field of Railways between Indian Railways and Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), the French National Railways were signed.

Indian Community in France

The Indian community, including NRIs, in France is estimated to be around 106,000, largely originating from Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Chandranagar. There are also large communities of PIOs in the Reunion Island (about 250,000), Guadeloupe (about 57000), Martinique (about 6000) and St. Martin (about 300), the overseas territories/departments of France.

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