India-France partnership: ‘M-2 formula’ to ensure peace in Indo-Pacific
The Modi-Macron (M-2) formula has, though, not officially described as such, but the Horizon-2047 statement, issued during the Indian Prime Minister’s Paris visit, reflects in clear terms about India and France’s commitment to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region
In the changed geo-political and geo-economic milieu, the world is looking with awe, the fastest growing and deepening strategic relations between India and France, which has added a fresh colour to the horizon, yet to be painted by any other democratic alliance of two or more countries.
The two countries have drafted a game-changer, Horizon-2047 statement, which defines and signifies 75 years of the most productive strategic partnership, ever seen on a geo-political map.
The foundation of undeclared strategic partnership was laid in the early fifties, when France readily offered its most modern fighter-bomber Ouragan, nicknamed by the Indian Air Force in 1952 as Toofani.
True to its name the aircraft could have shown its prowess against China during the 1962 SINO-Indian war, as then Indian military leadership surprisingly took a view that use of air-power would escalate the war and India would not be able to face the consequences.
However, India-France defence relationship has today reached to the level of Rafales multirole aircraft, a quantum leap in technology; the Indian government has taken a very rational decision of adding 26 Rafales of marine version, which is of almost similar designs and structure, which would help in easy maintenance of entire Rafale fleet of the Indian Air Force and the Navy.
Notably, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s just concluded visit to France, there was no announcement on the procurement of Rafale jets, but Dassault Aviation, the French aerospace company and maker of the aircraft in a statement on July 15 said: “The Indian government announced the selection of the Navy Rafale to equip the Indian Navy with a latest-generation fighter.”
In addition to this, India has also announced its decision to acquire three more Scorpene class submarines, six of which have already been made in Indian shipyard MDL, with French assistance. This rational decision will continue the construction activities of Scorpene submarines in Indian public sector shipyard MDL.
Use of infrastructure developed for six Scorpenes for additional three subs will help reduce the cost and delivery schedule. Thus, from Toofani to Rafales, and from highly sensitive nuclear to space sectors, France has helped India attain self-reliance.
Whether it is 500 MW fast breeder reactors or 125 kn capacity latest generation jet engine to be built by HAL on the strength of hundred percent technology transfer by the French fighter engine giant Safran, France has readily transferred India the most sensitive technology, ignoring international sanctions led by the US.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly commented that defence has emerged as the strongest of pillars of India-France strategic partnership. This partnership has evolved uninterrupted despite headwinds over the horizon.
During PM Modi’s July13-14 visit to Paris, the entire world saw the two world leaders entering into a game changing strategic partnership over the next 25 years. This is reflected in the Horizon-2047 joint statement which has charted ways up to 2047, that coincides with the centenary celebrations of Indian independence and fifty years of formal strategic partnership between India and France.
Summarizing the history of seven and half decades of bilateral diplomatic relations since 1947 in a few lines, the Macron-Modi Horizon statement or the M-2 formula for ensuring world peace, has described India– France relations as ‘long standing partners in the Indo-pacific.
“Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1947, and the upgrading of the partnership to the strategic level in 1998, our two countries have consistently acted together, building on a high level of mutual trust, shared commitment to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and common values rooted in international law,” Horizon-2047 statement said.
The two countries, in the next 25 years, aim to safeguard the international laws using their economic, strategic, and military heft. In fact, even before the four nation QUAD entered into an alliance like structure, which has sent a strong signal to China not to unnecessarily flex its muscle in the Indo-Pacific region, India and France were together conducting joint naval drills in the high seas.
France has a legitimate claim of protecting its strategic and economic interests in the Indo-Pacific Ocean due to its sovereign presence in the form of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Reunion, Mayotte, and Scattered Islands.
To show their joint maritime bonding, the two countries have engaged themselves together in Indian ocean in the shape of joint “Varuna” naval exercise which commenced in early eighties, during the height of the US-Soviet Cold War, and has since then grown in scope and strength, in order to develop interoperability which may come handy in times of crises to tackle.
“India and France intend to work together in the interest of international peace and stability and reaffirm their commitment to a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. India and France have decided to strengthen cooperation in the sectors of the future, so as to reinforce their sovereignty and decision-making autonomy, and to respond together to the major challenges confronting our planet, including through the cooperation between India and the European Union,” the Horizon-2047 statement, issued during PM Modi’s visit to France, said.
It would not be wrong to infer that this is a clear signal and warning to China, which has rattled the Indo-Pacific waters through its expansionist and aggressive designs, intentions and acts of vandalism in the South China Sea.
The Horizon-2047 statement enunciates, without naming China, efforts by India to tackle this challenge emanating from the number-2 superpower by working together with France along with the four-nation QUAD.
China’s challenge in the Indo-Pacific needs to be tackled not only at multilateral level but bilaterally also with like minded democratic countries such as France.
Modi’s visit to France has thus brought out Indian efforts to checkmate China in the Indo-Pacific region in association with France, to the forefront of all Indo-Pacific groupings of similar nature.
***The author is a senior journalist and strategic affairs analyst; views expressed here are his own