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France keen on closer relations with India

india Updated: Apr 25, 2007 05:11 IST
France cosying up to India

It appears to have become the practice for every major nation with a say in world affairs to choose constructive engagement with India to better understand a rapidly changing global order.

Joining the bandwagon of countries seeking to solidify their military linkages with India, France is trying to buttress its alliance with New Delhi and explore newer areas of defence cooperation.

Election fever may have sent France into a whirl but something else is occupying the minds of some of the brightest officers of the French armed forces. Over 100 officers from Le College Interarmees de Defense, the French equivalent of the Defence Services Staff College, are carrying out an analysis of where India figures in today's global power structure.

Rear Admiral Svend-Erik Estellon, director of studies at the college and head of the delegation to India, told HT: "India is on everybody's map around the world. The officers, among whom are future chiefs of the French military, will attempt to figure out whether India is a regional or world power, judging it on the basis of its military clout, economic muscle and governance standards."

As of now, New Delhi's Parisian romance is confined to bilateral air exercises codenamed Garuda, joint naval exercises called Varuna and an odd military exchange. France has little doubt that there is ample potential for enhanced engagement with India.

Group captain Patrick Serradell, the French defence attache in India, said his country's intention was to lay a strong foundation for the expansion of military cooperation with India.

The French Ministry of Defence sends out officers from Le College Interarmees de Defense, from the rank of major to colonel, to important countries every year to sharpen their geopolitical understanding and gain knowledge.

French ambassador Dominique Girard attributed the upswing in bilateral ties to a "natural desire" to further develop the partnership with India.

In Delhi, Admiral Estellon's engagements included a meeting with deputy chief of Integrated Defence Staff Lieutenant General CB Vijan and a visit to the United Service Institution, a leading Indian think tank.

Before returning to France on April 28, the future military leaders will get a glimpse of India's maritime might during a visit to the Western Naval Command.