The visit comes at an important moment, as the two countries celebrate 25 years of their strategic partnership marked by civil, space and defense nuclear cooperation.
In recent years, the partnership has expanded to include areas such as energy and combating cyber terrorism. office French President Emmanuel Macron He said that Modi’s presence and the participation of Indian forces in the Bastille Day parade would mark “a new stage in the strategic relationship”.
“India France and I have always been strong partners. It is a historical relationship that stretches back decades, predates Modi and is much deeper than just commercial relations, said Jean-Luc Racine, a senior fellow at the Center for South Asian Studies in Paris. It has a very important defense and security dimension. “
pointing to Deepening maritime and security cooperation between Paris and New Delhi in the Indian and Pacific oceansFrance has a chain of islands and an extensive maritime economic zone. The relationship is primarily driven by shared concerns about China’s growing influence in the region.
France is also the second largest arms supplier to India after India Russiaand the war in Ukraine He pushed New Delhi to accelerate its efforts to diversify its sources of military assets away from Moscow.
Reports suggest that Modi’s visit may see the two countries announce new deals for the maritime version of the French Rafale fighter jetsdesigned for use on aircraft carriers, and three Scorpene-class submarines.
The “inevitable nature” of relations between India and France
Some analysts point out that the global context of Modi’s visit to France is just as important.
India presides over Group of Twenty (G20) – a club of the world’s leading developed and emerging economies – This year Modi, who enjoys brilliantly balanced relations with both the West and Russia, is being courted by all sides though not guilty Russian invasion of Ukraine And Increase oil imports from Moscow.
In many ways, France sees India as the ideal ally to heal the rift exposed and exaggerated by Russian military aggression.
At a briefing this week, the Elysee Palace spoke of the “inevitable nature” of the partnership with India, which he said is now the world’s fifth-largest economy and France’s second-largest economic partner in Asia.
“There is a high degree of trust and comfort level between India and France and ideological affinity. Both countries greatly value their independent line of action and thinking,” Harsh Pant, of the New Delhi-based Observer think tank, told DW.
“The way India has positioned itself, its diplomacy and its global reach, there is a sense that India represents a large number of countries whose voices are not being heard on existential issues such as the rise in food, fertilizer and energy prices as a result of the war.”
“India can help France and the West reach out to a large part of the world where there seems to be a disconnect at the moment.”
Why do some criticize Macron’s move to invite Modi?
But not everyone in France welcomes Modi with open arms.
“India is a friend. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi is far-right and violently anti-Muslim in his country,” Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of the opposition Radical Left party “France Unbowed,” wrote on Twitter last month.
“He is not welcome on July 14th, the holiday of freedom, equality and fraternity that he despises.”
Green Party chairwoman Marine Tondeleire said choosing Modi as guest of honour was a “grave political mistake” by Macron.
“It must be recalled that since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, India, which is often called the largest democracy in the world, has been lagging behind when it comes to human rights and basic freedoms,” Tondeleire wrote in the French article. Newspaper Release.
Modi’s government has been accused of stifling the media, with India falling 11 places to 161 out of 180 countries in North America. The World Press Freedom Index produced by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders in May.
In the same month, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended for the fourth year in a row that the government of India be added to its religious freedom blacklist.
“Either completely ignorant of India’s internal political context or completely cynical to invite Mr Modi as the guest of honor of the Republic of France on the most emblematic day of the year,” Tondelaer wrote.
Modi’s call sends the wrong message
Criticism of India is rare in France, which does not have a large Indian expatriate population. But, one recent afternoon, a small group of people set up posters in a basement in Paris, saying “Not today Mr Modi! Bastille day is freedom day” and “No to Modi’s far-right agenda”.
They plan to hold a protest in central Paris on the eve of Modi’s appearance at the military parade on Thursday.
“Bastille Day represents a certain ethos and values that are under attack in India,” Paris resident Shailendra told DW. Modi’s invitation sends the wrong message.
But the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Jean-Louis Bourlangis, dismissed concerns about India’s democratic backsliding when asked about Modi’s invitation in the French parliament last month.
“India is certainly an imperfect democracy. But it is a democracy that is an absolute model if you compare it to Russia or China or many countries in Africa,” he said.
However, some believe that France should tread a fine line in calling out rights abuses by allies such as India while continuing to work with it.
“Of course, you cannot confuse India and China when it comes to human rights abuses,” Balveer Arora, former rector and vice-chancellor of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told DW.
“The big difference is that freedoms do not exist at all in China. Here in India, they do exist and are trampled upon,” he said. This is the tragedy and why countries like France should care.
Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru
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