East Indians Wanted in France
4 mars 2006
Watch for East Indian folks in France. Some could be Canadian.
French President Jacques Chirac’s recent trip to Asia yielded a few solid contracts and a symbolic breakthrough on nuclear cooperation with India. In part the contracts will translate in an Indian order of 43 Airbus jets amounting to 2.5 billion US dollars, which will keep the French aerospace industry humming for some precious time. On the nuclear file France has not become a serious competitor to US interests in India, but it has managed to etch out some strategic space that the wise men in New Delhi could use as a tool to negotiate more favorable deals with their American counterparts.
Understandably, under the shadow of solid dollar figures and nuclear cooperation with a powerhouse like India, one aspect of the French presidential trip remained less scrutinized. That was a strategic partnership signed in the presence of President Chirac and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by the French top business school Essec with the Indian Institute of Management located in Ahmedabad. This deal however could be a crucial first step in a medium and long term French strategy to building business relationships with India.
In a brief interview published in the French business daily Les Echos on February 23, Essec Director Pierre Tapie introduced readers to the stakes of the accord. Tapie said Essec will establish specific programs to attract Indian students to France and introduce programs and courses that could cater directly to specific Indian needs. “Our objective is to form people who will be capable of operating like footbridges between Europe and Asia. I think that is an issue of major geopolitical implications. Our Asian friends are not only fascinated by the United States : they want to get inspiration from other sources...Europe has a few things to teach on how to conciliate economic and social questions” said Tapie.
What Tapie seems to be craving for is a French version of what South Asians now call Non-Resident Indians (NRI), the highly skilled East Indian Diaspora that manned the High Tech and Internet boom on the U.S. West Coast in the1990s.
Interestingly, Chirac’s trip to India occurred when France has started to flesh out a new Immigration reform. Lobbied for extensively by the popular and controversial Internal Affairs Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, the reform’s stated goal is to attract immigrants with skills and competences that would benefit the French economy.
Put the presidential trip to Asia in this domestic context and the picture is clear. If France is indeed interested in attracting NRIs, the Immigration reform would be a must. Diasporas have been instrumental in building bridges for business and commerce since the beginning of time. However, to be effective, such communities need a setting that will not stifle their activities.
Incidentally if this new scenario materializes the Indo-Canadian community could come in handy. Indo-Canadians know what worked and what didn’t for their own skilled workers in Canada : they could hold a crucial consulting role on both ends of this Franco-Indian partnership. Watch for East Indian folks in France. Some could be Canadian.
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