Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-nation tour to France, Germany and Canada from 9 April to 17 April 2015 was intended to deepen bilateral strategic partnership, augment investment flows into our economy and enhance bilateral scientific and technological cooperation.
The significance of the visit can be well understood by analyzing the initiatives of the Prime Minister in the Strategic/Political and Economic spheres coupled with the domestic economic situation.
PM’s summit level talks with the heads of the three governments viz., French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper resulted in signing various Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and Agreements related to Defence, Energy, Infrastructure, Space, Skill Development, etc.
India’s relations with France assume importance because of France’s endorsement for India’s permanent membership in the UNSC. By virtue of being one of the permanent five members of the UNSC, France’s cooperation is of vital importance for India’s entry into the Global elite league. Signing of an agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition is aimed at deepening the strategic partnership and to meet immediate domestic defense requirements.
India’s relations with Germany assume importance because of its leadership role in the European politics and its sphere of influence in the leading global forums like G8 and G20. India along with Brazil, Germany and Japan have formed the G4 grouping to press for speedy United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms and their inclusion in the powerful organ of the world body. The joint statement issued by the two leaders during the visit is a reflection of growing cooperation between the two countries.
India’s emphasis on augmenting relations with energy-rich Canada is evident from the fact that Modi’s visit is the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 42 years. The signing of a business deal with Cameco Corporation to operationalise the India-Canada Nuclear Cooperation Agreement of 2013 is aimed at enhancing bilateral cooperation and overcome the energy deficit.
For India, European Union (EU) leads in terms of trade partnership, source of investment and source of technology in the world; hence economic cooperation with the 28 member politico-economic grouping is of utmost importance.
Apart from the above fact, the declining capital formation rate from 38.2 percent in 2011-12 to 32.3 in 2013-14 coupled with declining saving rate (As per the Economic Survey 2014-15) necessitate stronger relations with the EU in order to mobilize the necessary resources for achieving the objectives of Make In India, Digital India and Smart Cities initiatives.
Hence, during the visit, Germany agreed to leverage its influence over the EU for early completion of talks over the India-EU Free Trade Agreement which was launched in June 2007. Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy after USA, China and Japan and the largest economy and the manufacturing hub of the EU also agreed to take proactive steps to advance collaboration in the areas of manufacturing, skill development, urban development, environment, railways, cleaning of rivers, language and science and technology.
India’s economic relations with France, which derives about 75 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy, are of importance to tackle energy deficit in the country. During the visit, French nuclear major AREVA has signed two MoUs with L&T and NPCIL to develop indigenous nuclear technology and fast-track the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Maharashtra.
In a similar move, Cameco Corporation of Canada, the world’s largest uranium supplier, agreed to supply the nuclear fuel worth 350 million US dollars till 2020 starting from 2015. Both the countries also agreed to conclude talks on India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) by September 2015 and early operationalisation of the bilateral Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) signed in 2007.
The nuclear energy deals with France and Canada are significant because of the fact that India is the fourth largest energy consumer in the world and will have high energy requirements to sustain the growth momentum in the future.
In essence, Modi’s visit to three developed nations (members of G8) focused on articulating the improved ease of doing business conditions in the country and to attract necessary capital and technological resources to ensure faster and sustainable economic development of the country.
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