World News

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Paris, where he is scheduled to attend the Bastille Day military parade as the guest of honour and have discussions with President Macron and other top officials, as well as the initial approval of a significant defence aircraft procurement deal, brought India’s close friendship with France to the forefront this week.

Rising Western support for Modi and India is closely related to Westerners’ growing mistrust of China, which is also India’s principal military and economic opponent. The very reason why Western countries that criticise China and others for alleged human rights breaches suddenly lose their memory the moment Modi steps up is because of India’s capacity to act as a counterweight to China. As a result of the invasion of Ukraine, it is also the reason why India increased its commerce with Russia, despite concerns from other nations that they would have to stop doing so.

However, France has long disobeyed arms controls, including US sanctions put on India after its 1998 nuclear tests, so India’s affinity with France actually predates the advent of China. Given this, it should come as no surprise that India has plans to increase the number of Rafale fighter jets in its collection. The country has stated its intention to buy 26 additional aircraft for its navy in addition to three diesel-electric attack boats of the Scorpene class submarines, of which five are already operational and a sixth has recently been completed and is awaiting commission. The cost to India of the new planes and submarines is $10 billion and are intended to bolster India’s ageing submarine fleet, which is primarily of Soviet or Russian descent, as well as to bolster the INS Vikrant, the country’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier, which was commissioned late last year.

However, more than simply the strategic link is at work here. Many insiders have emphasised the “personal chemistry” between Modi and Macron, which is unexpected in and of itself given Modi’s history of bigotry and fascism and Macron’s lofty rhetoric regarding democratic values. The biggest fact in international affairs is arguably that interests always come before values.

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