On 14th July 2021, France celebrated its National Day. On this occasion, the French Embassy in India said that ‘commitment, resilience, solidarity’ are three principles that define the Indo-French strategic partnership. Recently, the Indo-French ties have become more crucial and needed than at any time.
France has always been a steadfast supporter and a ‘friend in need’ for India. As a part of self-reliance and deterrence, when New Delhi tested nuclear weapons in 1998, France was among the very few countries to stand with India. We all know how on-time deliveries of French fighter jet Rafales helped India after the Galwan Valley clash with China.
However, the India-France relationship has the potential to go beyond bilateral partnership and boost the development and security of the nations in the Indo-Pacific and Africa. Africa, in particular, could become a textbook example for this kind of trilateral relationship.
India and France have established a ‘Dialogue on Africa’ since June 2017. The second edition was in December 2018. The third edition is expected to be held this year. The dialogue intends to develop trilateral cooperation between India, France and the African countries.
France could be a crucial partner for India in Africa as 29 of the 88 African nations are French-speaking. Moreover, France is Africa’s biggest trade partner and investor from the European Union. Trade between France and Africa is worth $55 billion while 8% of FDI into Africa comes from France, reports think tank, Observer Research Foundation. All of it gives France wide and deep influence in the continent of Africa.
India, too on its part, is engaged with 41 African countries. New Delhi has either extended Line of Credit to these nations or is involved in some infrastructure project. The combination of French natural influence and Indian soft power in Africa can not only reduce the project costs but also can provide a better alternative to the predatory Chinese debt trap.
The trilateral relationship model could similarly suit like-minded nations from the Indo-Pacific. In fact, here, Indian-French cooperation has received a crucial boost with the addition of Japan. India-France-Japan trilateral cooperation brings immense technological prowess along with soft credit options for other partners in the region and beyond.
In Africa, South Africa is currently seeing the worst civil unrest since 1994. Although the immediate reason for the riots is the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma, it appears that the rage is actually a fallout of the frustration among the masses over the economic crisis due to China’s Wuhan virus. Similar situations are simmering in several countries. Thus, India and its partnerships with its friends like France, Russia, Japan, etc., have the potential to bring the world out of these crises.