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Updated: May 15, 2012 01:20 IST

Is François Hollande a dangerous man for India?

    Jean-Joseph Boillot
    Philippe Humbert
Comment (10)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
STUDY IN CONTRAST: Hollande will be more predictable than Sarkozy (left).
STUDY IN CONTRAST: Hollande will be more predictable than Sarkozy (left).

His vision of managing the economic crisis is similar to New Delhi's

The recent presidential change in France has raised some concerns in India. First, they concern the man himself. Admittedly, François Hollande is not well known, but the Indian media has presented rather negative images of him — of an “evasive” man whose humour would serve primarily to circumvent difficulties, while his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy was able to win them over with his ability to forge direct contacts and make quick decisions during his first visit to New Delhi in 2008.

In the beginning, the French too were won over by Mr. Sarkozy but were soon disappointed by his behaviour as revealed by his plummeting popularity in polls just a year after his election. He never recovered. India knows that democracy suffers from governance flaws, but it also has a consistent tradition of rejecting those who divide the national community or attempt to govern by force.

Coming back to the man, it is said that Hollande has no international experience. Actually, he led a party with a long international tradition for over 10 years and was a very close associate of François Mitterrand, undoubtedly a man of great international stature. Although he has never visited India himself, that is not the case with some influential people in his entourage like Martine Aubry who organised in 2006 the first ever and largest festival of India in France in Lille.

A few days ago, Hubert Vedrine, our former Foreign Minister who is known worldwide as the French Kissinger, gave the best definition of the upcoming diplomacy — if François Hollande is elected, he will “behave more rationally, less impulsively [than his predecessor],” in a word more “predictably.”

Three fronts

Moving on to policy, what policy will the new French president undertake, and what will the consequences be for India?

1. On the economic and European front, President-elect Hollande is indeed different from his predecessor. Instead of the old, classic and conservative policies, he wants to trigger dynamic and progressive management of the global crisis. India is also severely affected as shown by the recent downgrading of the sovereign ratings of the country and of some of its banks and businesses by S & P and Moody's. Mr. Hollande is not a dangerous man who believes that the welfare state and increase in taxes are the only solutions, but he considers that only inclusive growth and a state conscious of the general interest of its people can provide a sustainable solution in today's open world. These are exactly the same challenges that India has chosen to take up.

Contrary to what is being said, Mr. Hollande is not a dangerous man for Europe either. Everyone knows that since the failed referendum on the European constitution in 2005, it is his top priority. He simply underscored for months the need to combine a return to balanced public finances with a growth policy to prevent the European Union from plunging into recession and a return to nationalism. This view is increasingly shared by EU officials, including the ECB. If the bet is won, it is an opportunity for India which is suffering from the Eurozone crisis as its banks are reluctant to lend abroad, and the country has suffered reduced foreign investments as illustrated by the recent cancellation of the Peugeot car plant project in Gujarat.

2. On the global economic front, Mr. Hollande does not have double standards of denouncing competition from emerging countries as being responsible for the crisis in order to fuel chauvinism and even racism; and then go begging for contracts in the same countries. The new President is a responsible man who knows that globalisation can bring benefits to all if regulated in a balanced manner. He also knows that the ultra-liberal discourse has been the source of global excesses for many years, creating strong divisive inequalities within each country, be it France or India. More ultra-liberal globalisation is not the solution and India knows this, not just in the field of finance but also for food security, etc. Each country or regional group must be able to maintain control over its economic and social development. However, Mr. Hollande is not a protectionist either. He knows that we all have a stake in the open world of trade. The key then is to adopt a balanced approach. Is this different from New Delhi's vision?

3. On the bilateral front, François Hollande is just as open to India as other French presidents. The India-France strategic partnership began in 1998. Lionel Jospin, a socialist was the then Prime Minister and Mr. Hollande was the undisputed leader of the Socialist Party. Undoubtedly, the French Socialists have a strong commitment to India. This partnership is still part of the same common vision of a multipolar world, more preferable to a bipolar “Chinamerica.” In geopolitical terms, France will seek more than ever to enter into dialogue with India on all global issues: there are various areas of agreement such as multipolarity, symbolised by the G20, a permanent seat for India in the U.N. Security Council, the fight against terrorism, the need for economic and financial regulations, and finally the mutual interest in strengthening relations with the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Regional issues

There are areas where there exist, or where there will be disagreements: financial transactions tax, climate change, respect for social and environmental standards, or the practice of secularism in France. But let's discuss them.

Finally, there are some difficult short-term issues such as the best way to stabilise Afghanistan. France has always been sensitive to the concerns of India, but Mr. Hollande has committed to advance the withdrawal of French troops fighting in the country to the end of 2012. This does not in any way mean that he is not concerned about the serious crisis in that country since he has also taken up the commitment to continue working for its political reconstruction. The situation in Syria and Iran are other sensitive issues where Mr. Hollande's team knows that we need more consultation with India. So let's start working as soon as possible with the new team in Paris. India has its rightful place in the new presidency.

(Jean-Joseph Boillot is an economist and Philippe Humbert, a political analyst. Both are India specialists.)

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I agree with the substance of the article, but the title is misleading. Hollande believes in a kinder, gentler form of capitalism, and not a ruthless one that crushes the helpless, as with Merkel's austerity drives. Hollande is the only man who can stand up to Merkel, because only France has the strength and the close relationship with Germany to do this. As recent polls have shown, Merkel herself is likely to be voted out of power. Her exit will permit the creation of pro-growth stimulus policies and affiliated institutions.

from:  Sanjay
Posted on: May 15, 2012 at 22:59 IST

Further to my opinion on article "Is François Hollande a dangerous man for India?c " I wish to add some more points of the new President of France. Just before his victory he has sent his future advisors or Ministers of his gouvernment to various countries.
Vist of the former Prime Minister Mr. Larent Fabius to China,and Japan and another advisors to Germany,Bruxelles, and United States and he send even someone to South aAmerican countries like argentina Brezil and Mexico.

We should not forget that china is the worl power in every European Head have to visit China for any commercial negotiation.
For the moment India is making progress both in social and economic but it has not achieved upto now any contestable economic progress with china.

India has to improve on infrastructures ( very very poor ) and let us not forget the growing population of India. ( 25 millions per year )
We have to wait another 25 years.

from:  KathirGaman
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 16:56 IST

On syrian and Iranian issue Mr.Holland will certainly consult with his partners of NATO and China and Russia. But not India. Russia and China have more influence on syria and Iran and therefore the new president will certainly consult with Mr.Obama and european countries. He will also withdraw the French troops from Afganistan but not totally because France is one of the country whose troops are higher after United States and great Britain.As a symbol, he will withdraw a part of his troops not total.He has to abide to the NATO agreement.

from:  KathirGaman
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 13:18 IST

What a predictable syndicated piece on a socialist president in The Hindu! No surprises here...

from:  Bala Chandrasekaran
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 11:59 IST

At last a good paper on Hollande and India; Sarkozy and more than that actually, Carla Bruni, were so much incensed despite being so far from a human vision of life that India always carry with her history since Gandhi and Nehru; hopefully also, it may contribute to reversing the global trend on inequalities and start also new bilateral relations with India less focused on arms and nuclear and more on sustainable and fair development.

from:  Paul
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 11:51 IST

India is one of the fastest growing economy and every country and their leader is able to foresee that in the coming ten years India would be a big market to be benefited from.Strategic ties with India both at political and economic terms is indispensable for any country.

from:  Ankit Trivedi
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 08:13 IST

India is one of the fastest growing economy and every country and their leader is able to foresee that in the coming ten years India would be a big market to be benefited from.Strategic ties with India both at political and economic terms is indispensable for any country.

from:  Ankit Trivedi
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 08:12 IST

Excellent summation of the the situations, as existing and likely to exist between India and France. Let us hope that the relationship become more concrete than that has been in the past.

from:  jack singh
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 02:09 IST

I am hoping Hollande will do what is good for the majority of french people. That is what required now, not taking care of only the few 1%.

from:  Arunabh
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 01:36 IST

Indian government's inaction in many policy decision has proved more dangerous than foreign governments

from:  Hitesh
Posted on: May 14, 2012 at 01:23 IST
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