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Hollande in New Delhi: when Paris rediscovers the road to India

Translated Saturday 23 February 2013, by Kristina Wischenkamper

During his visit to New Delhi, François Hollande wants to promote Asia — which accounts for 50% of global GDP — in his diplomatic transactions.

The policy of "looking east" passes through India. Today, François Hollande began a state visit to New Delhi, under the auspices of the economic sector. Accompanied by some 60 business leaders, the President of the French Republic will try to reach agreements on the sale of the 126 Rafale, public transport, the construction of two EPR nuclear power plants, and boost cooperation in innovation.

France is lagging behind

India, the country on the brink of becoming the third world power in 2030 and which has served as an Eldorado for economies of other countries, is where France is lagging seriously behind, in spite of the strategic partnership agreement that has bound France to India since 1998. "France is not seen as an economic powerhouse in Asia", says Olivier Guillard Asia Research Director at the Institute of International and Strategic Research. Lagging way behind Germany and England, France’s bilateral trade agreements with India remain sorely deficient. Because Paris, despite having chosen competition and competitiveness, is still struggling to find its opportunities in the Asian emerging markets. "India identifies France as a partner with cutting-edge technology, as innovative, and unhesitating with respect to technology transfer. India knows that a partnership with France will always be more equitable than with the United States of America", is how it is explained to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

India at the UN

During a visit to Laos, François Hollande had already promised that the Asian countries — which represent 50% of global GDP — would play "their role in European and global growth." Hot on the heels of Jean-Marc Ayrault’s tournée of the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand, the French head of state insisted that India should have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council; he now plans to visit China and Japan. It’s a sign of the times, seeing as the diplomatic advisor to the Élysée is none other than sinologist Jean-Paul Ortiz, previously based in Hanoi and Beijing, who was the director of the Asia Department at the Quai d’Orsay.

Growth turndown

The serious turndown in India’s economic growth may hamper its fight against poverty. Indian government forecasts put growth rate estimates at 5%. That is to say the worst economic performance in ten years, should the estimate prove to be correct. India is currently experiencing sluggish growth, and, when at all, only in crucial sectors: 1.9% in manufacturing, 0.4% in mining, 1.8% in agriculture.

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