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What a Macron Presidency Would Mean for Indo-French Relations

Macron is aware that India is France's first strategic partner in Asia and would like to maintain this good relationship.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:April 27, 2017, 7:40 AM IST
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What a Macron Presidency Would Mean for Indo-French Relations
Macron is aware that India is France's first strategic partner in Asia and would like to maintain this good relationship. (Photo: Reuters)
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New Delhi: Like the rest of the world, in France, too, a new political scenario has emerged. It is for the first time in almost six decades that voters have rejected the established political parties — The Republicans and Socialist Party. Now, as the two contenders for the run-off — centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen — await voting on May 7, India is gearing up for a change of regime in Paris.

The French elections assume greater significance at a time when the world seems to have taken a decidedly Right turn from the Brexit referendum in UK to Donald Trump’s victory in the US. A liberal Emmanuel Macron, who after round one seems to have won the backing of most other parties, now stands as perhaps a beacon of hope.

A former banker and one who served under current President Francois Hollande as the economy minister, 39-year-old Macron would be France’s youngest president, if he manages to pull it off. He severed ties with Hollande over his ideas being sidelined and launched his own party, En Marche! in 2015.

A political newcomer but one who seems determined to change the course could infuse more energy into India-France relations. Those in New Delhi keenly watching the developments say that the India-France relationship is strongly growing and they expect it to continue in all spheres. Macron is aware that India is France's first strategic partner in Asia and would like to maintain this good relationship.

Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow, Foreign Policy at Brookings India believes that since he was a protege of Hollande's before striking out on his own, “we should not expect significant changes beyond a more pro-business outlook. The engagement of India by France has broad appeal at the highest reaches of the government and bureaucracy.”

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At multilateral forums, India can expect a backing from France under Emmanuel Macron. He is in favour of India being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and that should strengthen India’s case as it continues to push for reforms in the UN in keeping with the current global realities.

On the other hand, just ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in Seoul last year, France had extended support for India’s bid to the 48-member grouping. It had said “France considers that India’s entry into the four multilateral export control regimes (NSG, MTCR, The Australia Group, The Wassenaar Arrangement) will bolster international efforts for combating proliferation.” That support is likely to continue not just on the non-proliferation aspect but also efforts to promote clean energy. India has time and again reassured the world that it is acquiring nuclear energy for peaceful use. Macron’s campaign promise on moving France speedily from coal towards renewable energy is in sync with what India aspires.

NSG is not the only forum where Macron could be seen supporting India against China. As New Delhi continues to tackle the dragon's dominance in South China Sea, Macron would most likely press for freedom of navigation strengthening India's case. Dhruva Jaishankar explains, "France is very interested in this issue. We often forget that France has territory in the Indian Ocean and Pacific, so it is a resident maritime power in the Indian Ocean. France has been in line on freedom of navigation issues with India and others. That is unlikely to change."

India has purchased 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition for $8.8 billion as against the original plan of 126 jets. Despite protracted negotiations India curtailed its order owing to the cost. Even though follow-on orders look difficult at the moment, analysts believe that the France India defence tie-up could see steady pace. A French Attorney at Law with Adamas Avocats Associés, Amair Farooqui says, “Macron has the support of the Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who has been one of the major pillars to the India-France collaboration in the defence sector. So it will be correct to say that if he is appointed as Macron’s minister, we can expect more on Make in India from Macron.”

As India professionals and students remain concerned about their future in America with Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ pitch and post-Brexit in UK, Macron’s presidency could open up new avenues. Amair adds, “Contrary to his rival, Macron is in favour of a France promoting the acceptance of immigrants in our societies especially towards students and professionals willing to work in France since he will be facilitating Skill/Talent visa in order to attract great foreign knowledge, so Indian students and professionals would most likely be welcomed.” Le Pen has run down Macron calling him an “immigrationist” but Macron has said "I hope that in a fortnight I will become your president. I want to become the president of all the people of France - the president of the patriots in the face of the threat from the nationalists,” giving a clear indication of his intent.

ALSO READ | French Presidential Elections: A Look at the Candidates

India and France have already upped their cooperation on combating terrorism. In the joint statement in January, 2016 when President Hollande visited India it stated, “Agreeing on the imperative of having a comprehensive approach to address terrorism, India and France resolved to step up their bilateral cooperation, under the supervision of annual strategic dialogues and joint working group on counter-terrorism meetings, to counter violent extremism and radicalization, disrupt recruitment.” Both sides are likely to continue on the same path under Macron too. Macron has often voiced his concern at inequalities in the society fuelling radicalization and terrorism; it is therefore believed he will have both a military as well as political approach in countering radical forces.

But the big question remains how many of his candidates get elected to Parliament. Without a majority, his plans could be challenged and make the road ahead difficult despite his rather refreshing ideas in the current global scenario.

(Get detailed and live results of each and every seat of the state Assemblies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram to know which candidate/party is leading or trailing and to know who has won and who has lost and by what margin. Our one-of-its-kind Election Analytics Centre lets you put on the psephologist's hat. Know interesting facts and trivia about the elections. Elections = News18)
| Edited by: Swati Sharma
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