France is staging a seduction campaign for visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, guest of honour at Friday’s annual Bastille Day parade, with the French president calling India a “key” player “in our future.”
France is looking to further strengthen cooperation on an array of topics ranging from climate to military sales and the strategic Indo-Pacific region. But human rights, seen as an increasingly pressing subject for Modi’s India, was missing from the vast agenda.
President Emmanuel Macron praised India in a speech Thursday evening before French defence officials as a “key partner.”
During a speech on Thursday evening before French defence officials, President Macron praised India as a vital partner. The French government is eager to deepen ties with India and explore opportunities for cooperation. Macron and Modi will preside over the grandiose annual military parade on Friday to commemorate France’s national day. Indian troops will march alongside three French-made Indian Rafale jets performing a fly-by.
Coinciding with Modi’s visit, India’s Defense Acquisition Council approved the purchase of 26 Rafale jets for the Indian Navy. Particularly, as announced by the Indian Defense Ministry. The statement mentioned that the price would be negotiated with the French. The council also approved the acquisition of three Scorpene submarines, developed jointly by France and Spain.
Human rights concerns in India
Critics have expressed concerns about France extending such a warm welcome to Modi. The 72-year-old Indian prime minister is increasingly seen as an authoritarian leader, with his Hindu nationalist party viewed as divisive. Amnesty International highlighted a decline in freedom of expression in India under Modi’s leadership in a report published in April.
On Thursday, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the integration of human rights into all aspects of the EU-India partnership, including trade. The resolution urged member states to raise human rights concerns systematically and publicly at the highest level.
Modi’s two-day visit to France coincides with the 25th anniversary of the strategic partnership between Paris and New Delhi. Significantly, it precedes Macron’s upcoming trip to the Indo-Pacific region, home to 1.5 million French nationals. Discussions with Modi aim to ensure the region remains a space where security, particularly of the seas, and other critical concerns such as climate change are safeguarded. Macron referred to it as an “essential strategy for the balance of the planet.”