French elections: what would a Le Pen victory mean for India? | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW

The 2022 French presidential elections will see Marine Le Pen do battle with Emmanuel Macron, the incumbent president, for the second time. She managed to get 23.2% of the votes in the first round. Macron obtained 27.8%.

The second round, which will be held on Sunday, is crucial for France and Europe, given the fundamental convictions of the two candidates on key issues.

While centrist Macron has professed his belief in a more globalized worldview, far-right Le Pen has called for a more protectionist economy. Opinions to the contrary could pose difficulties for the future of trade relations between Europe and France.

Given the strong bilateral ties between New Delhi and Paris, the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union has the potential to further galvanize India-EU relations.

For France, the Indo-Pacific space is a geographical reality where the center of gravity of the world economy has moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Six members of the G20 — Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea — are located in the region and the maritime trade routes linking Europe and the Persian Gulf to the Pacific Ocean, via the Indian Ocean and the Southeast Asia, have become very important.

The region’s growing share of world trade and investment means it is at the forefront of globalization. For example, France has been at the forefront of major transnational initiatives that have been created in the Indo-Pacific region and the International Solar Alliance, which was launched with India in 2018.

Questions about Le Pen’s position on trade

Things could change if there was a change of guard in Paris. Le Pen’s battles with the European Union, a history of friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a recent call for NATO-Russia rapprochement have raised questions.

Diplomats and security experts have different perceptions of what might be in store for a change of presidency, with India featuring prominently in the EU’s recently released Indo-Pacific strategy, alongside older partners and of trust such as Japan.

“I think Macron will win but with a narrower margin than in 2017,” Mohan Kumar, India’s former ambassador to France, told DW.

According to Ipsos, a Paris-based market research body, even if the race for the second round is tight, Macron is the favorite, 54% against 46%.

“In the unlikely event of a Le Pen victory, I do not foresee any significant changes in Franco-Indian political, strategic and defense ties. There may, however, be changes in the commercial relationship. Immigration rules can also change, but this is something that all countries, not just India, should adapt to,” he added.

Happymon Jacob, an associate professor of diplomacy and disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, told DW that under President Macron, Indo-French relations have reached new low-key but substantial heights.

Commitment to countering China?

“Based on Le Pen’s rhetoric, I am concerned about France’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific and the fight against the Chinese threat, especially at a time when there are fears in India that the United States States and the West are preoccupied with Ukraine, thus ignoring the Indo-Pacific,” Jacob said.

“I doubt that France’s departure from the EU will have any immediate or direct implications for India, given that India and France have always had a strong bilateral relationship. In other words, the bilateral relationship between the India and France is far more important than India’s relationship with France as a member of the EU,” he added.

In the past, Le Pen has repeatedly expressed his intention to withdraw France from NATO’s Integrated Military Command and threatened to reduce France’s share of the EU budget. In addition, she had previously expressed interest in “Frexit”, although she later revised her opinion on France’s exit from the EU.

“An exit would have significant consequences, because France, while being a founding member of the EU, also has the largest defense budget in the bloc. It is the third largest contributor to NATO’s military and civilian budgets,” said Shayesta Nishat Ahmed, partner. fellow at the National Maritime Foundation, DW told DW.

“France being the largest maritime power in the EU, the future of the Indo-Pacific ambitions of the EU will be strongly impacted. It is considered a resident power in the region due to its territories there. France has also contributed to the bloc’s maritime capacity building and capacity-building missions,” she added.

France among the “first partners of India”

At the Ministerial Forum for Indo-Pacific Cooperation held in Paris in February, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said that the promise of multilateralism in maintaining a regional order in the Indo- Pacific with France was an essential bridge to connect Europe to India.

“In terms of security, France is already among India’s leading partners,” Jaishankar said. He added that with the EU, India “now has an enhanced partnership and an operational level of access”.

In May 2021, India joined for the first time the French exercise La Pérouse in the Bay of Bengal, which also included marines from the other members of the Quad.

The Indian and French navies have also participated in several multilateral exercises in the region. The two countries have a regular and longstanding dialogue on maritime security that was instituted in 2016, and there are frequent meetings between the national security advisers and defense ministers of the two countries.

“Therefore, in the case of India, the significance of the special strategic partnership between the two states derives from their bilateral relationship and it is a gateway for India to facilitate an intimate connection with He cast a shadow of apprehension regarding the unpredictability and unsustainability of French multilateralism under his eventual presidency,” Ahmed said.

C Raja Mohan, India’s top foreign policy analyst, told DW that India and France are keen to deepen their security partnership and strengthen their positions in the Indian Ocean.

“India will prefer Macron but France has always been a close ally. In addition, Le Pen’s views will affect relations with the EU, Russia and Germany first and foremost. How we deal if there is a transition is something all countries have to deal with,” he added. said Mohan.

Edited by: Leah Carter

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