Affairs

Economics

Bienvenue en Inde— Pondicherry

Preface

Nestled in a corner of India is a town of pétanque and pâtisseries: Pondicherry is home to 7,000 French expats. It’s a microcosm of the flourishing business ties between France and India, but is it ready for major economic growth?

France, India, business ties

In the shadow of the twin Gothic-style towers of a church, a cluster of Tamil men play pétanque on a red-earthed field. Just metres away, locals stroll along the seafront road, which is free of vehicles. This is India, but not as we know it: a town where streets are wide and clean, bougainvillea in full bloom hangs low over lime-and-mortar walls and sari-clad women tote baguettes in their shopping baskets.

Almost six decades after the departure of its erstwhile French rulers, Pondicherry (officially renamed Puducherry but rarely referred to as such…

Very French affairs

Accompanied by six ministers and 60 French CEOs – among them the bosses of Areva, Dassault and LVMH – French president François Hollande had a clear message for his Indian hosts during his recent visit: there is business to be done. At €7.5bn, Franco-Indian bilateral trade is impressive but still far from the ambitious €12bn target set by the two countries in 2008. French nuclear fuel and know-how feature strongly in the relationship and the nuclear dimension could help to explain why India was so uncharacteristically supportive of France’s intervention in Mali.

“Across the border from Mali, the security of Niger’s uranium wealth is not just France’s concern but India’s as well, as it too is an end-user,” says Paris-based international-news reporter Leela Jacinto. “It’s a bilateral relationship that is often overlooked but increasingly France and India are there for each other at critical times.”

Building on the recent Bonjour India and Namaste France cultural festivals organised by both countries on each other’s soil, four Indian films were screened at last year’s Cannes film festival and at the 2013 edition, India is celebrating a centenary of cinema. There have been similar collaborations in the realm of scientific research and education, where the number of Indian students heading to France has doubled in the past five years.

France is keen to make up for lost time. Until this year there had been just six presidential visits to India since the Fifth Republic was founded; some say more trips should scheduled to maintain the momentum of this fledgling partenariat stratégique.

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