January 30, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether France can help India reduce its dependence on Russia. We also look at the government’s e-scooter service in Delhi, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Can France help India diminish its reliance on Russia?
India and Russia have embraced a “special and privileged strategic partnership” that includes frequent discussions between the leaders of the two countries as well as their respective ministries. Both nations also engage in significant sales of advanced weapons and intergovernmental commissions to collaborate in trade, energy, science, technology, and culture.
Today, India and Russia have an invaluable bilateral strategic alliance. Such an alliance is not seen between India and any other nation. Russia has also provided India with significant political, economic, and strategic help. However, in light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the nefarious antics of China, Russia’s iron comrade, at the LAC, India needs to find itself an alternative. Fortunately, for India, it does not need to start a search afresh, as it may already have an option in France.
The French ambassador to New Delhi, Emmanuel Lenain, asserted that France is a great option for India to diversify its defence supply amid a high reliance on Russia and that France is ready to collaborate with India on important strategic defence projects. This is big news considering that the military aspect makes up one of the largest chunks of the Indo-Russian alliance.
The former Soviet Union served as India’s ally and source of veto power in the UN Security Council during the Cold War. It was aware of India’s interests in maintaining its national security, particularly towards Pakistan and Kashmir. Additionally, the Soviet Union gave India financial support and military supplies.
Over the last few decades, India and France have developed a close economic, security, and diplomatic connection that has endured the Cold War and grown stronger in recent years. It won’t be wrong if one says that France has evolved into India’s new Russia.
The significance of France is evident from the fact that it is the only nation whose presidents have attended India’s Republic Day Parade as main guests a record-breaking five times (1976, 1980, 1998, 2008 and 2016). This says a lot, as the social as well as political culture of both France and India gives a very high value to symbolism.
Today, Russia has stronger ties with China compared with India. Russia has become less supportive of India’s interests, particularly when it comes to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and terrorism. In view of this, it seems that France has filled the void left by Russia.
VIEW: France can match the shoes of Russia
On Monday, India and France discussed ways to strengthen their bilateral military ties with a focus on defence-industrial cooperation centred on the Make in India initiative, expanding the scope and complexity of their armed forces’ joint training exercises, and fostering maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The ministers reviewed the ongoing military-to-military collaboration, which has significantly increased over the last several years and addressed a wide variety of bilateral, regional, and defence and defence-industrial cooperation topics.
The government’s Make in India project, which aims to boost the nation’s defence manufacturing industry, reduce the import of military hardware, and take advantage of international weapons export prospects, was a prominent topic of discussion in the defence industrial cooperation category. France has successfully supplied 36 Rafale fighter planes and other systems to India and intends to establish an industrial base for national-level defence in India. In collaboration with Mazagon Dock Limited, the Naval Group of France has been producing Scorpene submarines in India while completely transferring its technology as well.
France has always backed India’s application for permanent membership in the UN Security Council among the permanent members. France was also one of the few nations that did not criticise India’s nuclear tests in 1998. Instead, it decided to engage in strategic negotiations with India that led to a powerful strategic alliance in the fields of space, security, defence, and civil nuclear cooperation. Going back to the Cold War era, France stepped in to provide enriched uranium when the US ceased delivery of nuclear fuel to the Indian atomic power station at Tarapur in reaction to the nuclear disaster that occurred in India in 1974.
Both India and France have emphasised the importance of the Indo-Pacific region in their repeated appeals for a free, open, and rules-based order in the area in response to China’s assertive actions in the contentious South China Sea. Since 93% of France’s exclusive economic zone is located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the government has been exploring more and more to build its strategic alliances in the Indo-Pacific area. France is also represented in the region through its overseas territories.
This indicates that India and France share a very deep and intimate bond formed decades ago, and both of them are equal partners in this relationship.
COUNTERVIEW: Ties with Russia will always weigh more
The proportion of Russian-origin platforms in the Indian military, as opposed to the often-quoted 60%, makes up 85% of the country’s key weapons systems. For Russia, this has had the effect of “locking” them in. India initially sought an alliance with the Soviet Union for a variety of security, economic, and political reasons, and this relationship has continued to shape India’s choices and incentives even after the Soviet Union’s disintegration.
Despite India’s claim of being a nonaligned country, during the second part of the Cold War, it was evident that India had shifted its allegiance toward the USSR through substantial acquisitions of Soviet military hardware. This shift, however, was caused because Pakistan had entered the power bloc of the USA. India naturally leaned toward the USSR to counter Pakistan as a result of US support for Pakistan, first through the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and later through the Baghdad Pact in the 1950s.
France wasn’t the only nation to support India’s nuclear ambitions. Moscow agreed to send heavy water for India’s nuclear reactors after the United States and Canada ceased shipping rather than denouncing India’s nuclear test in 1974. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union supported military action by India in Sri Lanka, while India also supported the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
On a number of important Asian problems, India and Russia continue to have wide political and strategic convergences. These aims include a balance of power with China that involves interaction and hedging rather than outright confrontation, as well as mutual silence, if not political assistance, in crises with crucial adversaries and stability in Eurasia.
After New Delhi repealed Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous provisions in 2019 and reinstated central authority, Russia became the first member of the UN Security Council to support India’s stance on Kashmir. India has responded by not condemning Russian operations in the Syrian crisis, its annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of Ukraine, its political meddling in free elections, and its stance on the use of chemical weapons via its abstinence from voting in the UN.
Thus, Russia has helped India throughout history and continues to be a source of great aid even today. Even geopolitically, Russia is still India’s biggest partner that has friendly relations with China.
- India and France hold talks on deepening bilateral military ties – Hindustan Times
- How France is ready to help India diversify from Russia — build fighters to submarines – The Print
- In Modi era, France has replaced Russia as India’s new best friend – The Print
- The Influence of Arms: Explaining the Durability of India–Russia Alignment – Air University
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) France can help India diminish its reliance on Russia.
b) France falls short of being an alternative to Russia.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
When Godse is revered, it’s a crime to remember Gandhi
For the Left:
Time to Revisit The ‘Borrowed’, ‘Colonial’ and ‘Compromised’ Constitution
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
E-scooter service (Delhi) – The Delhi government’s latest effort to tackle pollution is to launch electric scooter services. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the government would introduce 1,500 scooters at 250 locations in the coming year for last-mile connectivity. The AAP government kicked off the initiative with a pilot project in Dwarka.
Why it matters: Despite an extensive Metro and bus network, last-mile connectivity remained a problem in several areas. Dwarka was chosen for the pilot since it has ten metro stations and dozens of bus stops. The government will install charging and maintenance stations also. It wants to transform public transport and has done some work on this by introducing electric buses and e-rickshaws and banning old fuel-powered vehicles.
Field Visit programme launched (Tamil Nadu) – The state government launched a new initiative called CM on Field Visit, where Chief Minister MK Stalin will conduct a detailed review of welfare schemes and development projects and their implementation across various districts. Some of these will be related to roads, public infrastructure, drinking water, and healthcare.
Why it matters: The initiative will help the government identify whether the schemes are reaching the intended beneficiaries. On February 1, Stalin will meet with representatives from farmers’ associations, industries, and self-help groups. Apart from him, DMK ministers and secretaries of departments responsible for implementing the schemes will hold a review meeting.
No fine from NGT (Odisha) – The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has decided not to impose a ₹1,138 crores fine on the Odisha government. The fine was for improper management of solid and liquid waste. The state promised the NGT that ₹1,152 crores would be credited into a separate account dedicated to managing solid and liquid waste. The NGT decided to give the state a chance to rectify the issues.
Why it matters: A court bench decided there was a deficit in the sewage generation and treatment of 514 million litres per day. The bench decided it was the government’s responsibility to have a plan and deadline to prevent pollution. The NGT said it’s open to the state’s plan to raise the necessary money from contributors of waste or by other legal means.
15-year-old vehicles to be scrapped (Maharashtra) – The state has decided to scrap government vehicles older than 15 years and increase the green tax on vehicles 15 years or older. There’ll also be checks on old vehicles for flouting pollution control norms. Private cars over 20 years and commercial vehicles 15 years and older can be scrapped voluntarily by the owners. For every car scrapped, the owner will get a credit note for the scrap value, about 4-6% of the ex-showroom cost of new vehicles.
Why it matters: The new policy will also curb the illegal scrapping of vehicles, specially stolen ones given to some scrap dealers. It is expected to reduce road mishaps due to technical faults in older vehicles. The government wants to incentivise owners of older cars to buy new ones which have better pollution controls.
First detainees at foreigners’ transit camp (Assam) – The first group of detainees declared foreigners by the Foreigners’ Tribunal were moved to the newly-built detention centre. The centre is the biggest in the state, known as the Transit Camp in the Goalpara district. 45 of them were male, and there were two children in the group. The Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body set up under the Foreigners Act.
Why it matters: The process was started following a directive from the Gauhati High Court. The camp was built on 28,800 square feet of land in the Matia area for ₹46.51 crores. There are more than 1,000 “declared foreigners” in detention camps inside six jails. Most of them were released on conditional bail. There are pending challenges to the Tribunal’s order in the Gauhati High Court.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹26,388 crores – The mutual fund industry had an exposure of ₹26,388 crores towards nine Adani Group companies. The conglomerate is in the news after US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research raised questions about its financials.