French President Emmanuel Macron has been invited as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, continuing the tradition of esteemed leaders from France attending this significant annual event. A 95-member marching contingent and a 33-member band contingent from France will also participate in the parade.
The trilateral exercise took place a few days before the Republic Day celebrations in India, which will also feature the participation of two Rafale fighter aircraft and an Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft belonging to the French Air Force. In cooperation with the French Air and Space Force (FASF) and the Air Force of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out “Exercise Desert Knight” over the Arabian Sea. The exercise was designed to promote collaboration and coordination among the three Air Forces, allowing for sharing operational knowledge and best practices.
The two nations have been striving to reduce their reliance on the United States for security while also condemning China’s aggressive stance. The foundation of the enduring partnership between India and France is our mutual commitment to democratic principles, shared belief in the power of multilateralism to address international issues, adherence to international law, and robust economic, cultural, academic, and interpersonal connections.
With significant developments in the history of India-France ties, the year 2023 became remarkable as the India-France Strategic Partnership celebrated its 25th anniversary. The prime minister visited Paris on July 13–14, 2023, as invited by President Macron to attend the French National Day festivities as the Guest of Honour. The Prime Minister, was present at the French National Day alongside President Macron observe the Bastille Day Parade. The Indian Air Force aircraft showcased a fly-past, while a tri-services contingent participated in the parade.
India and France have been striving to reduce their reliance on the United States for security while also condemning China’s aggressive stance
The Prime Minister met with President Macron and engaged in high-level discussions at the Élysée Palace, the President’s official residence. The two leaders, among other things, agreed on a roadmap titled “Horizon 2047: Charting the Future of India-France Strategic Partnership”, which will guide their bilateral collaboration for the next 25 years. This period will coincide with the centenaries of India’s independence and diplomatic relations between both countries. A comprehensive Indo-Pacific Roadmap was established, accompanied by significant MoUs / LoIs / Agreements in various crucial domains such as Institutional Cooperation, Space, Defence, Science, Strategy, Sustainable Development, and people-to-people cooperation.
The French president organised a lavish dinner to celebrate the Indian prime minister’s visit to the prestigious Louvre Museum. The prime minister was awarded France’s highest honour, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. During the visit, the prime minister had the opportunity to meet with Ms Elisabeth Borne, the Prime Minister of France, as well as Mr Gerard Larcher and Ms Yael Braun-Pivet, who hold the positions of Presidents of the Senate and National Assembly, respectively. He also engaged with the Indian diaspora at a community event that was well-attended by members of the French Parliament, city mayors, dignitaries, and business leaders. He also had the opportunity to meet CEOs and prominent French personalities.
Paris hosted the 4-day Festival of India, “Namaste France”, in July 2023. The event showcased India’s rich cultural heritage to over 20,000 visitors. It brought together well-known Indian performers and visual artists from the classical, modern, contemporary, and folk genres for live performances and exhibitions.
France has become India’s second largest arms supplier, following Russia. Additionally, France has openly expressed its support for India’s pursuit of permanent membership in the Security Council and the United Nations reforms.
India currently possesses 36 Rafale jets produced by Dassault Aviation in its Air Force and six Scorpène submarines manufactured by the French Naval Group, previously known as DCNS. Before that, during the 1980s, India acquired Mirage jets, which are still in active service and makeup three squadrons of the air force.
India and France have a solid and resilient defence partnership with a growing emphasis on self-reliance. The defence cooperation between the two sides is assessed through the Annual Defence Dialogue at the Defence Minister level and the High Committee on Defence Cooperation at the Secretary level.
France has become India’s second largest arms supplier, following Russia. It has further openly expressed its support for India’s pursuit of permanent membership of the UN Security Council
Exploring additional avenues for collaboration includes the joint development of advanced fighter plane engines for future generations. In 2023, an office of DRDO was established in the embassy to enhance technological cooperation between India and France.
HAL is currently exploring the production of the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH), a versatile medium-lift helicopter that can serve a variety of essential roles. It can replace the ageing Mi-17 helicopters for air assault, air attack, anti-submarine, anti-surface, military transport, and VIP transport missions. The company has already entered into a workshare agreement with France-based Safran for the joint development of engines.
India and France have a long-standing history of collaboration in space for more than five decades, with ISRO and the French Space Agency, ‘Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales’ (CNES), leading the way. France plays a significant role in providing components and equipment for the Indian space programme. The inaugural India-France Strategic Space Dialogue occurred in Paris on 26 June 2023, with Foreign Secretary Mr Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Secretary General Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ms Anne-Marie Descôtes leading the discussions. The meeting focused on identifying areas of collaboration in civil space cooperation and defence space cooperation.
ISRO and CNES have recently finalised a joint declaration to collaborate on future launch vehicle technologies and have also agreed to work together on joint Earth Observation mission TRISHNA, Maritime Domain Awareness (Short-Term plan), and Space Situational Awareness. ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has successfully launched French satellites commercially, establishing a solid partnership with Arianespace of France, as the primary provider of launch services for Indian Geo-Stationary satellites. Arianespace and NSIL have agreed to collaborate on commercial launch services, solidifying their partnership.
India and France have a solid and resilient defence partnership with a growing emphasis on self-reliance, which is assessed through the Annual Defence Dialogue at the Defence Minister level and the High Committee on Defence Cooperation at the Secretary level
Personnel from the Indian Defence Space Agency had the opportunity to visit the France Space Command and participate as military observers at the ASTERX 2023 Space Exercise, which took place from March 8-9, 2023. France took part in the ‘Aero-India’ event held from February 13-17, 2023 in Bangalore, sending a delegation of 10 officials and being represented by 27 French defence sector companies.
France has a cumulative foreign direct investment stock of $10.76 billion from April 2000 to September 2023, making it one of the top investors in India. As of June 2023, France’s foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow for the fiscal year 2022-23 was $659.77 million. France is home to more than 70 Indian companies with over 8,000 employees. India has attracted the interest of numerous French companies, with more than 750 of them investing in the country. These investments have led to the employment of a significant workforce of over 450,000 individuals.
In the fiscal year 2023-24 (until August 2023), the value of Indian exports to France reached an impressive $3.06 billion, while imports from France amounted to $2.36 billion. India’s primary exports to France consist of a range of high-quality goods such as engineering, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, electronic equipment, and ready-made garments. On the other hand, India imports aviation products, machine equipment, electrical equipment, and chemical products from France.
India and France have a long-standing history of collaboration in space for more than five decades, with ISRO and the French Space Agency, ‘Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales’ (CNES), leading the way
Several Bilateral Joint Working Groups cover a range of fields, including IT & Telecommunications, Roads, Sustainable Urban Development, Agriculture and Food Processing, Mineral Exploration and Development, and Energy.
The future of India-France relations is filled with immense possibilities. By collaborating on common goals, utilising their abilities, and adjusting to the evolving world, both countries can establish a partnership that benefits them and contributes to a harmonious, affluent, and environmentally friendly global future. India and France jointly may work for global peace and harmony.
-The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies. Prior to this he was Group Captain in the IAF. He served the IAF for more than three decades in various capacities. He was Director Air Staff Inspections and retired as Director, Joint Control and Analysis Centre. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda