International Relations

India and France are expanding their strategic partnership

The 25th anniversary of India and France’s strategic partnership (January 26) provides an important opportunity for both countries to reflect on their relationships. The time-tested strategic partnership, signed in 1998, has gained momentum over shared values and aspirations of peace, stability, and, most importantly, strategic autonomy. There are no substantive differences between the two countries.

France is India’s largest foreign investor

  • France has emerged as India’s most important trading partner, with annual trade of $12.42 billion in 2021-22.
  • It is India’s 11th largest foreign investor, with a total investment of $10.31 billion from April 2000 to June 2022, accounting for 1.70% of total foreign direct investment inflows into the country.

France is India’s most important defence trading partner.

  • Second largest defence supplier between 2017 and 2021: France has emerged as an important defence partner for India, becoming the country’s second largest defence supplier between 2017 and 2021. With critical defence deals and increased military-to-military engagement, France has emerged as a major strategic partner for India.
  • As an example: A key example is the induction of French Scorpene conventional submarines, which are being built in India under a 2005 technology transfer agreement, and the Indian Air Force receiving 36 Rafale fighter jets.
  • Aircraft manufacturing joint venture: The Tata group has also partnered with Airbus to manufacture the C-295 tactical transport aircraft in Vadodara, Gujarat. In a joint venture with France, this line is expected to be expanded into other civilian and military aircraft manufacturing.
  • Regular joint exercises: These ties are strengthened further by a robust network of military dialogues and the regular joint exercises Varuna (navy), Garuda (air force), and Shakti (army).
  • France is an eager partner for India: The French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, recently stated that France is a willing partner for India as it builds its national industrial base for the defence industry and critical strategic defence projects, emphasising the importance of the defence partnership.

Maritime connections

  • India-France Joint Strategic Vision Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region: India and France are Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific resident powers. The importance of the Indian Ocean Region was evident during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to New Delhi in 2018, when both countries’ leaders welcomed the Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, which presented a blueprint for strengthening ties.
  • Similar partners: In terms of operations, Franco-Indian joint patrolling in the Indian Ocean signals New Delhi’s intention to work with similar partners to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean.
  • A shared vision for an open Indo-Pacific: Maritime security has gained traction as both countries articulate their shared vision for a free, fair, and open Indo-Pacific. Both countries want to provide all-encompassing solutions for maritime security, regional cooperation, and climate change adaptation.
  • Concerns about China’s aggressive behaviour: Both countries are concerned about China’s rise and aggressive behaviour, both regionally and globally, and have committed to working together to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region is not imbalanced.
  • Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund: In September 2022, India and France agreed to establish an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund to support long-term innovative solutions for countries in the region. The two partners have joined forces with the UAE to ensure maritime domain awareness and security from the east coast of Africa to the far Pacific.

Additional areas of collaboration

  • Nuclear cooperation: France was one of the first countries to sign a civil nuclear agreement with India. Following the 1998 nuclear tests, Paris also played a critical role in limiting India’s isolation in the non-proliferation order.
  • France supports India’s bid for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council, as well as its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, as a sign of expanding cooperation.
  • Climate change is an area of importance for both, and India has supported France in the Paris Agreement, expressing its strong commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change. In 2015, New Delhi and Paris established the International Solar Alliance as part of their joint efforts to combat climate change.
  • Deepening cooperation in a complex geological order: As the international geopolitical order has become more complex, both countries have worked to deepen and broaden their cooperation.

Way Forward

  • The partnership between India and France is based on shared values and goals.
  • Both have emphasised the importance of maintaining strategic autonomy while sharing a common understanding of global risks in a variety of domains.
  • A high-level India-France political dialogue on defence, maritime, counterterrorism, and the Indo-Pacific is currently underway.
  • They are now moving forward with collaboration in areas such as digitisation, cyber security, green energy, a blue economy, ocean sciences, and space.

@the end

India and France are aware of each other’s interests and dependencies, whether with regard to China or Russia. There is much room for future collaboration in the context of a long strategic partnership, a shared interest in enhancing strategic autonomy and improving resilience.

And get notified everytime we publish a new blog post.