France's Christine Lagarde failed on Tuesday to win public backing from India for her bid to lead the IMF as she continued her global roadshow aimed at overcoming opposition in emerging countries.


 

"/> France's Christine Lagarde failed on Tuesday to win public backing from India for her bid to lead the IMF as she continued her global roadshow aimed at overcoming opposition in emerging countries.


 

" />
SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

India fails to back Lagarde

 

France's Christine Lagarde failed on Tuesday to win public backing from India for her bid to lead the IMF as she continued her global roadshow aimed at overcoming opposition in emerging countries.


 

India fails to back Lagarde

The French finance minister, who has already travelled to Brazil to press her case, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a day of talks with the Indian leadership.

“I was not here seeking assurance or reassurance. I was here to present my candidacy,” she told reporters afterwards, adding it would have been “premature and arrogant” to expect India to back her.

New Delhi and other large emerging powers have been highly critical of Europe’s stranglehold on the managing director position at the Washington-based IMF, which has been filled by a European since its inception in 1944.

“The selection of the managing director of the IMF or that of the World Bank should be on the basis of merit, competence, and (be made) in a transparent manner,” Mukherjee said after Tuesday’s meetings.

Commentators had predicted before Lagarde’s arrival that India would be unlikely to back her, preferring instead to focus on trying to work with allies in the emerging world to form a consensus on their own candidate.

“She’ll be received warmly, but I’m not sure she will receive open Indian support,” Brahma Chellaney from the Centre for Policy Research think-tank in New Delhi had predicted in an interview with AFP on Monday.

Mukherjee said talks with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa – the so-called BRICS bloc – were continuing.

“It’s not possible to say whether there will be a common candidate,” he said.

Lagarde, a 55-year-old former lawyer, has pledged to reform the IMF to give emerging and developing countries more power.

India has so far declined to publicly support any candidate in the race to fill the top job at the lender, which fell vacant with the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn over allegations of sexual assault in New York last month.

In a New York court on Monday, the 62-year-old pleaded not guilty to the attempted rape of a hotel maid.

The only other serious contender, Mexico’s central bank chief Agustin Carstens, is to visit Canada on Tuesday and India on Friday on a tour that has already seen him stop off in Brazil and Argentina.

“He is also a competent person and we are going to have a discussion,” Mukherjee said.

The only possible Indian candidate for the job, 68-year-old Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who heads the government’s Planning Commission policy unit, was ruled out because he is over the IMF retirement age of 65.

“I think at this point India would like to see if the Mexican candidate is going to be a credible challenger. They’re hedging their bets safely and have sat on the fence,” Chellaney said.

Prime Minister Singh has conceded that changes to the IMF and other global institutions to reflect the rise of Asia and other emerging countries will take time, telling reporters last month that it would be a “long haul”.

Other Indian officials have stressed that the current voting rights for the IMF give Europe and the United States overwhelming influence and ability to force through their candidate as the next head.

Lagarde is due in China on Wednesday before heading on Friday to Lisbon, where African finance ministers and central bankers will be meeting for the African Development Bank’s annual gathering.

Chellaney said India was also watching China carefully.

Much could hinge on whether China unites with other BRICS nations rather than doing its own deal with Europe and the United States.

Some reports suggest China has agreed to back Lagarde in return for support for its own candidate as her number two.

The Times of India newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, said other Asians were also in the frame for the number two spot, such as Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij and Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

DISCOVER FRANCE

Inside Brégançon: The French presidential Riviera holiday home

If you're expecting to see French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris over the summer you're likely to be disappointed - he and his wife Brigitte are at Brégançon, the official Riviera 'holiday home' of the presidents of France.

Inside Brégançon: The French presidential Riviera holiday home

The Fort of Brégançon, which stands on a rock 30 metres above the sea, has been offering privacy and sunshine to French presidents for decades, although its history goes back much further than that.

The fort is perched on a tiny island – just 4.5km long – connected to the French mainland by a causeway and has been a strategic site since the 6th century, acting as a seigneurial residence, a Crown estate property and a military site equipped with artillery including 23 cannons under Napoleon Bonaparte.

It was Charles de Gaulle who gave it the status of official presidential residence in 1968 and it’s usually used for presidential holidays – similar to Camp David in the USA and Chequers in the UK.

It has since been transformed into a pleasant residence while maintaining what remained of the ancient fortress, giving presidents the opportunity to take advantage of the sunshine of the Riviera.

French presidents have their main residence and offices in the Elysée Palace, the beautiful 18th century residence in the heart of Paris. In addition to Brégançon, presidents also have the use of La Lanterne, a former hunting lodge in the grounds of Versailles, and although they can’t stay in the sumptuous Palace of Versailles they do sometimes hold events and meeting with foreign dignitaries there.

It’s Brégançon’s offshore location that was the key for De Gaulle, who considered it the only place in the south of France secure enough to receive foreign heads of state, particularly from Mediterranean countries in the geopolitical context of decolonisation. 

While it remains secure, it is these days within long-lens range for photographers, as several presidents have discovered. 

But through the years of the Fifth Republic, French presidents have had quite varying attitudes to this undoubted perk of the job.

De Gaulle’s successor Georges Pompidou seemed to love it and spent his weekends in the Fort both in summers and winters. He opened its doors to the media, letting himself be photographed with his spouse in more relaxed clothing and playing pétanque with his bodyguards.

Georges Pompidou and his wife Claude in August 1969 pose in the gardens during their summer holiday. Photo by AFP

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who regularly stayed there with his family, brought the national spotlight on the Fort by letting paparazzi venture around the residence, snapping pictures of him in swimsuit and tennis shoes, but also installing CCTV inside the residence.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing poses for photos with his wife Anne-Aymone in 1979. Photo by AFP

When socialist François Mitterrand won the election, he declared: “the Republic doesn’t need a secondary residence.”

He limited his visits to work meeting – the SNCF strikers in 1987 and two heads of state the Irish Prime Minister Garret Fitzgerald and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl – although he took no steps to sell off Brégancon. 

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was hosted by François Mitterand in August 1985. Photo by PIERRE CIOT / AFP

His successor Jacques Chirac particularly appreciated the fort because of its location in the Var département where he lived as a child.

With his spouse Bernadette, they regularly attend mass at the local church and greeted residents and tourists. In 2004, the President received Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to appease tensions. The Brégançon presidential desk was photographed for the first time.

Jacques Chirac and Brigitte leaving the local church in May 1999 Photo by VANINA LUCCHESI / AFP

During his presidency Nicolas Sarkozy received foreign politicians including Condoleezza Rice, but also took some time to exercise. The pictures of him jogging around the Fort were described as creating a new style of presidential communication. Later, he was photographed on the beach with first lady Carla Bruni during her pregnancy.

Nicolas Sarkozy jogging, followed by his bodyguards on bikes. Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP

François Hollande, who branded himself as a “normal president” felt no particular attachment to the Fort and opened the site to the public for visits, although he did host some work meetings there.

A rather formal looking Francois Hollande meets with his Prime Minister Manuel Valls at Brégançon. Photo by BERTRAND LANGLOIS / POOL / AFP

Since being elected in 2017 Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron seem to have enjoyed the Fort, retreating there during the summers and being photographed on the beach or having fun on jet-skis – they also installed a swimming pool which cost €34,000.

Brigitte Macron owns a property in the northern French seaside resort of Le Touquet, which the couple use for family time. But Emmanuel Macron has also used the Fort for work, hosting British Prime Minister Theresa May in August 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin in August 2019, on the eve of the G7 in Biarritz, and Chancellor Angela Merkel in summer 2020. 

Emmanuel Macron welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Bregancon in August 2020. Photo by Christophe SIMON / POOL / AFP

This year he declared that he would be having a “pause studieuse” at Brégançon and use the summer to think about how to tackle some of France’s most pressings issues.

With a cost of living crisis, war in Europe and political turmoil at home, let’s hope that his beach reading bears fruit.

By Julie Edde

SHOW COMMENTS