France extends Bastille Day welcome to Modi
In Paris, further strategic and economic partnerships are anticipated as France seeks to enhance its involvement in Asia
President Emmanuel Macron (L) extended a warm reception to prime minsiter Narendra Modi
The guest of honour for the Bastille Day celebrations in France on Friday (14) is Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, highlighting the ongoing efforts of Western powers to engage with India, the world’s largest democracy and a rapidly growing economy.
President Emmanuel Macron extended a warm reception to Modi, following the recent rare honour of a White House state dinner in Washington, where Modi was once banned from visiting.
During his visit to the US, various agreements were reached on arms sales, semiconductor investment, and space cooperation, overshadowing concerns about human rights and accusations of religious intolerance towards India’s Muslim minority under the Hindu nationalist government.
In Paris, further strategic and economic partnerships are anticipated as France seeks to enhance its involvement in Asia, along with other Western nations, in response to the increasing assertiveness of China in the region.
Modi’s visit alongside Indian troops joining the annual Bastille Day military parade, marks “a new phase in the strategic partnership between France and India”, Macron’s Elysee Palace office said in June.
Both countries have “a shared vision of peace and security, especially in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific region”, the statement added, using a term used by the US and its allies for the Asia-Pacific region.
Modi, who greeted the French leader with his customary bearhug during the latter’s first state visit to India in 2018, said on Twitter last week that he was “looking forward to meeting with my friend President Macron”.
“The India-France Strategic Partnership holds great significance for global good,” he added.
India, in its pursuit to modernise its armed forces and address potential future threats from its northern neighbour, has already become a customer for French arms, including Dassault’s Rafale fighter jets.
The urgency of this task for New Delhi has been amplified by ongoing disputes with Beijing over their extensive Himalayan border.
The region witnessed a clash in 2020 that resulted in the tragic loss of 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers, leading to a significant deterioration in relations between the two capitals.
In recent decades, India has experienced a significant expansion of its middle class, propelling it forward from a history of pervasive poverty.
This transformation is attributed to the country’s rapidly growing economy, which surpassed that of its former colonial ruler, Britain, making India the fifth-largest economy globally.
India welcomed its inaugural retail stores from Apple in April, highlighting the company’s eagerness to tap into the flourishing market for high-end consumer goods in the world’s most populous nation.
Additionally, the US tech giant is taking steps to bolster semiconductor and phone production within India as a safeguard against potential disruptions in the supply chain caused by political factors in China.
India’s ascendant economic influence has been accompanied by a growing assertiveness in its diplomatic endeavours, with the country’s leaders embracing its newfound prominence on the global stage.
This year marks India’s inaugural hosting of the G20 summit, a platform that Modi has utilised to enhance his domestic image as a guardian of national power and prosperity.
Modi has adeptly managed relations with both longstanding ally Moscow and newer Western suitors, adopting a stance of non-criticism regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year while simultaneously taking advantage of discounted Russian oil.
Simultaneously, his government has been warmly received into closer security cooperation with Western nations through the Quad alliance, which comprises the United States, Australia, Japan, and India.
The Quad is regarded as an additional counterbalancing force against China’s influence in the region.
Additionally, Modi attended a cricket match at a stadium bearing his name in March with visiting Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese.
“It is to do with containing China,” said Manoj Joshi, a New Delhi-based author and geopolitical commentator.
“China is becoming a difficult market… and in terms of size and strength of its economy, India is a very good fit”.
(With inputs from AFP)