Recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic visit to France, marking a significant milestone in the evolving Franco-Indian relationship. Modi was the guest of honor at France's Bastille Day parade, the first Indian leader to receive such an honor. This visit was not just a ceremonial event but a testament to the deepening strategic partnership between the two nations. The highlight of the visit was the confirmation of India's purchase of 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets and 3 Scorpene military submarines from France, a clear indication of the strengthening defense ties.
But what does French President Emmanuel Macron want from India and its Prime Minister? The answer lies in the concept of "strategic autonomy," a principle that both nations hold dear. Strategic autonomy refers to the ability to make decisions independent of external pressure, a concept that has been central to the foreign policies of both France and India. Macron's engagement with Modi and India is a reflection of this principle.
Firstly, Macron sees India as a key player in maintaining a multipolar world order. In a world increasingly dominated by major powers like the US and China, Macron values India's stance of maintaining strategic autonomy and not aligning completely with any major power bloc. This aligns with Macron's vision of a world where no single power is dominant, and smaller nations have a significant role in shaping the global agenda.
Secondly, Macron is keen on diversifying France's strategic partnerships. With India, France has found a reliable partner that shares its vision of strategic autonomy. The defense deals, including the sale of Rafale jets and Scorpene submarines, are not just commercial transactions but a strategic move to deepen defense cooperation. This is particularly important for Macron as he seeks to reduce France's dependence on its traditional allies and forge new partnerships.
Thirdly, Macron is interested in pulling India away from Russia's orbit. Russia has been India's top weapons supplier for a long time, and the recent defense deals with France indicate a shift in India's defense procurement strategy. By strengthening defense ties with India, Macron is subtly influencing India's strategic choices.
Lastly, Macron sees an opportunity to engage with India on global issues such as climate change, terrorism, and the situation in Afghanistan. During Modi's visit, the two leaders discussed these issues and agreed on the need for a negotiated solution to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
To put it simply, Macron's relationship with India is guided by a few key ideas. He values a world where power is shared (multipolarity), the ability for countries to make their own decisions without outside pressure (strategic autonomy) and having a variety of partnerships (diversified partnerships). Macron's talks with Modi are not just about making France and India closer, but also about gently influencing the bigger picture of global politics.