France, Vive Not So Much Difference



There was a time when France mattered a hell of a lot to India. It was the dissident member of the Western world that India could count on to resist the imposition of sanctions (after nuclear tests) and cast the odd veto (when Kashmir would come up).

In return, India had to buy the odd bit of weaponry. But it is important to realise that Paris played this role because it believed in promoting a multipolar world, designed to dilute the overweening power of any country in the world.

Giving India a helping hand helped it in its general desire to slay hegemons.

The problem today is that France is less interested in promoting that role. The flip side is that India doesn’t need that kind of assistance as much as it once did.

Why is the hegemonic business somewhat less important? The United States is in relative decline and, at times, in serious trouble.

The world has so many emerging powers coming up that the problem is keeping track of them. What really hurts is that the original French vision was of a European Union that would be the primus inter pares in a tripolar world.

Right now, the EU is struggling to hold on to its existing accomplishments and the idea of it becoming a coherent polity is not being taken too seriously by anyone.

As one French defence ministry official told me once, “The days of us giving the Americans a hard time are over.”

The other side of the story is that since George W. Bush decided to carve out an exception for India in the nuclear nonproliferation regime, the special role of France for India is also much reduced.

New Delhi keeps finding countries who want to do it a special turn.

France is a dependable vote for India as it tries to enter various international fora, especially those related to the nonproliferation regime.

In theory, with India’s opening up of its economy there are now even more economic opportunities for both countries than ever before. And they are happening. L’Oreal is one of the most successful French firms in India.

Tata Consultancy Services and other Indian service firms are doing well in France. But the Indo-French economic relationship is punching well below its weight. Belgium trades more with India than France.

Indian investment in France is about one billion dollars. There are barely 3,000 Indian students in France.

And what was surprising about the Sikh turban dispute was that France had a Sikh community at all.

Much of the economic relationship between the two countries is government to government — reactor buys, airplane acquisitions.

The poor economic relationship has many reasons but the sense in the Indian private corporate sector that France doesn’t have too much to offer. There is technology, quality and so on.

But French stuff is expensive and struggles to be competitive in the global system. Renault-Nissan’s head, Carlos Ghosn, put it well when he said they had forgotten “frugality” — how to make good stuff for less.

It could almost be said this applies to French foreign policy. Old formulae are not working in a new world order.

Paris needs a new India formula, but its hunt for billion dollar contracts is obscuring it from finding one.

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  • an indian

    Mr Sanghvi – We can never have debates like US in India…couple of reasons (and no pun intended here) -

    1. If we have it then before the debate, Congress will kick off CBI inquiry against the moderator so that he is forced to reveal the questions to congress leaders especially Rahul baba.
    2. If CBI is not possible and then Congress will try to pay a heavy amount in bribe to moderator and organizing committee members.
    3. Congress will give some post-debate employment offers to these moderators.
    4. BJP and Congress will join together to get the questions and “no attack on family” policy to come out with answers which are good for them.
    5. Can you imagine MMS going to debate and being watched sleeping there in front of TV cameras.
    6. Or, if not sleeping then imagine what will happen when u watch MMS calling Soniaji (the famous and only bahu of India) and Rahul baba after every question asking what answer he would give.
    7. Imagine watching LK Advani shedding his crocodile tears for Babri and Gujrat riots

    You need some honesty to have these debates. Unfortunately, we as indians have too much expectation from our indian politicians.Day is not far away when these politicians will be beaten up by mango indians on roads. When Damaadji is saying India as “banana republic” then it is not an insult but when an artist is making a cartoon it is a crime at national language. What a shame that our politics has been restricted to only few people when we have some all the great indians still present.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amit-Sharma/782062691 Amit Sharma

    Dalla phir Bola…lol

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  • h.Mani

    When is the last time any politicians answered any charges.?In USa,if a cabinet Secretary issues a death threat to a citizen,he is toast for life.Any thing goes in India.In a strange way,what Robert Vadera said is true,India is Mongo-Banana republic,even you have to agree.It is very sad,first of all,they are so physically out of shape,not to speak about smarts.

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  • tbr

    Indian democracy is “scumbag” sham democracy.

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  • nkbansal

    I wish that type of debate existed in India. Corruption appoints people on the king’s seat who have no good ideas but know only to rob India.

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  • tbr

    Indians want to wear every brand name and then gang rape a woman. I don’t think even Taliban does that to women. I think we have a very different problem than Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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  • Rahul

    Sorry. Indian politics is not mature enough to have such a debate. Indians in general are more inclined to enjoy life, argue about things and let others do the task of nation building. When India gets serious we can have debates otherwise it will be an entertainer with no tangible value and only an agreement to disagree in the end as usual.

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  • Sumit Bose

    Mr Dalal, you ask if Gadhkari is a crook?…Well may i have the liberty to wonder how our beloved Italian ex-maid has been named the 4th wealthiest politician in the world and that does not register in your radar with a resounding blip?

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  • Anon

    Follow the model from US TV show Newsroom. No-one really does that even remotely in Indian media, but is really what Media is meant to do.

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  • JR

    BJP can produce a number of people up for a debate; but who would turn up for Congress? They don’t even have a person who can speak intelligently without making a face on TV. Unfortunately, a Journalist can’t be put up disguised as Congressman.

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  • nitin agrawal

    to debate is one thing and to argue is other…sadly we prefer the latter one. in order to have a indian western mindset like this obama-romney debate we should have a open mind. my presumption is that sincew we are all dirty, we fear to debate. another thing is that people market those thing whioch people like to buy and vice-versa. indian populace wants steamy issues like rahul as a pm etc. kareena weddings etc .we hate constructive debates. it is us who need to give preference what to buy and what to reject.

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  • Abu Ahmed

    We must have such debates – as only then would the masses be informed and educated about those issues. Whether one likes it or not, mass media is also an educator – look at the response Aamir Khan received for his show – that proves the point that people are ready to listen and respond to intelligent shows. Likewise, if our vernacular media begins addressing national issues on TV, and in a less hyped way than the way Hindi media addresses them, there’s much scope for its success.

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  • Anonymous

    A debate between whom?

    This is a mutli party system and not two horses racing against each other.

    Further on the private channels are clearly biased towards certain parties depending upon thier owners personal business interests.

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  • Ramesh Kumar

    MR SANGHAVI ,OUR PROBLEM IS AS WAS USED TO BE SAID DURING INDIRA’S TIME ,”THOSE WHO WERE ASKED TO BEND WERE WILLING TO CRAWL”.NIRA RADIA PROVED THAT PEOPLE WILL NOT ONLY CRAWL BUT ACT LIKE DALAL.AS WELL.
    NOW DO WE EXPECT FROM SUCH PERSONS IRRESPECTIVE OF PROFESSION ANY JUST CONTRIBUTION. NO.
    ADVANI SUGGESTED DEBATE ,YOU NEVER CAME OUT IN HIS SUPPORT.MAY BE THAT TIME YOU WERE IGNORANT ABOUT US DEBATE..
    I AM GLAD YOU ARE WISER TODAY. YOU HAVE USED A WORD “CROOK” FOR GADKARI.IAM GLAD FOR YOUR BOLDNESS.
    NOW WILL YOU USE SAME ADJECTIVE FOR INDIRA ,VADRA OR RAHUL AS
    PER SRI RAM JETHMALANI RAHUL HAS A SWISS BANK ACCOUNT ,INDIRA USED TO KEEP SLUSH MONEY IN SBI AS PROVED BY NAGARWALA ETC.OR THEY ARE SAINTS.PL RESPOND.
    IN OUR COUNTRY OF SLAVES ,COWARDICE IS A VIRTUE.NIRA RADIA PROVED IT.

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  • Indian

    If debate happens Modi will r@pe all Congress single handed.Rahul will get a mental trauma, Sonia will get heart attack and MMS will get paralysis.

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  • Anonymous

    Well you lament about the lack of any significant economical relationship between the two countries, then about the latter for seeking “billion dollar contracts”… That sounds a bit unfair. :)

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  • nohup

    article has no focus and is self-contradictory as previous commenter pointed out

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  • achaean

    The source of the problem is the brittle nature of the French establishment. They basically despise everyone but are incapable of understanding that they lack humility and a relaxed openness to new ideas, new projects. A foreigner will have a hard time in France, not because of the people but because of the establishment, the administration, the bureaucracy and the laws. They say they are the home of the Rights of man but it is a joke. Look at the prisons and the way the bureaucracy treats people. It is clear that the French system is hitting the buffers, but they, Hollande included, seem incapable of seeing it. Over 50% of people who work, work for the state. They have no choice. It is only a matter if time before the Germans and others turn their backs, and then France will be obliged to reappraise its strong points – believe me there are some, but they are cloaked by this hopelessly regulatory political and legal structure in which the state puts its nose into everything. You can’t even really trust French journalists because they are subsidized by the state too. Culturally it’s a desert, centralized and monopolistic. The young are abandoned and are condemned to never creating their own businesses and moral order. Above all, France has lost the idea of the sacred, and is left with egotism, which will not get it through its hard times. Watch French TV: you will hardly see an Arab or a Black, women are stereotypes in the ads, baby voices and worried about perspiration – and men in ads are always the same: white, in their thirties and only want a faster car. Why should anyone want to buy into that? Humour and empathy is deeply lacking.

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