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PM Modi in France: A Diplomatic Balance Test Amid Celebrations of Defence Ties

New Delhi will have to balance its strategic autonomy with its growing ties with France and the West.

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As the global order transitions from unipolarity to multipolarity, many countries are diversifying their strategic partnerships and reducing their reliance on a single power.

This trend can be observed in various regions, such as West Asia, North Africa and South Asia, where countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and India are pursuing more balanced and multilateral relations in the changing world.

By aligning with this trend and reducing its excessive dependence on Russia for its defence needs, India is expanding its defence cooperation with other countries, especially France, which has emerged as its second most important defence partner after Russia.

Prime Minister Modi is paying a visit to France following his trip to the US, in order to diversify his strategic options and enhance and maintain India’s relations with France and Europe.

However, the visit will not be without challenges. India has refrained from condemning Russia’s actions at the UN. It has advocated for peaceful dialogue as the only solution. Meanwhile, it has diversified its defence sources and reduced its reliance on Russia.

It has also engaged with other partners for its defence modernization, such as the US, Israel, Germany and South Korea.

The visit will test how how India will manage its delicate balance between the West and Russia, which are at odds over Ukraine, and what prospects and challenges lie ahead for the 25th anniversary of their strategic partnership and what are the major highlights of the forthcoming visit?

PM Modi in France: A Diplomatic Balance Test Amid Celebrations of Defence Ties

  1. 1. Major Highlights of Prime Minister’s Visit

    Prime Minister Modi is visiting France on Bastille Day, the French national day. He will join the celebrations as the second Indian prime minister to do so, after Manmohan Singh in 2008. The visit also marks the 25th anniversary of the strategic partnership between India and France.

    A tri-services contingent of the Indian armed forces will parade on the Champs Elysees, symbolizing the robust defence ties between the two countries.

    Prime Minister Modi and President Macron will hold bilateral talks on various crucial issues, such as the Indo-Pacific Region, Climate Change, Defence and Security, Energy Security, maritime security, and trade and economic relations.

    They will also review the progress of their joint initiatives, such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

    The defence deal will be the main highlight of the visit. It will entail the acquisition of 26 Rafale M aircraft and three additional Scorpene submarines worth over Rs 90,000 crore (according to few media reports).

    The 26 Rafale M aircraft will comprise 22 single-seat and four double-seat trainer versions. The three additional submarines will be part of the Scorpene deal under Project 75 of the Ministry of Defence, which aims to procure diesel-electric submarines for the Indian Navy.

    Expand
  2. 2. India-France Strategic Ties are Marking the 25th Anniversary 

    India and France have a long history of defence ties that date back to the 1950s, when the Indian Air Force procured the first French fighter jet, Ouragan, which was renamed as ‘Toofani’.

    The strategic partnership between the two countries was formalized in 1998 and has since witnessed a remarkable expansion.

    France has become the second largest arms supplier to India after Russia, with a share of 27 percent of India’s arms imports during 2017-2021, as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The purchase of Rafale fighter jets by India from France is one of the most recent and notable manifestations of this cooperation.

    The defence dimension of the strategic partnership between India and France has been bolstered by significant defence deals and increased military collaboration.

    This is evident from the commissioning of the French Scorpene conventional submarines, which are being built in India under a technology transfer agreement signed in 2005, and the receipt of 36 Rafale fighter jets by the Indian Air Force.

    The armed forces of India and France have also engaged in various joint exercises, such as Varuna (navy), Shakti (army) and Garuda (air force), to enhance their interoperability and cooperation.

    India and France have a long-standing understanding on critical issues, which is reflected in various instances, such as France being one of the first countries with which India concluded a civil nuclear deal. It also played a crucial role in easing India’s isolation in the non-proliferation order after the 1998 nuclear tests. These are the issues that have strengthened the relations of these two countries over time.

    As an indication of growing collaboration, France backs India’s quest for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as well as its accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The key pillars of the Strategic Partnership between India and France are Defence & Security cooperation, Space Cooperation and Civil Nuclear Cooperation.

    Moreover, they are pursuing new opportunities of cooperation in domains such as maritime security in the Indo Pacific region, counter terrorism, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable growth and development, among others.

    A notable example of the cooperation in the field of renewable energy is the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which was jointly launched by India and France to combat climate change through the advancement of solar energy solutions.

    Expand
  3. 3. France’s Quest for Global Defence Clout and India’s Lucrative Market Potential

    France has emerged as the largest defence exporter to India, accounting for 36 percent of India’s defence imports in 2018-22, up from 5 percent in 2013-17. This marks a significant shift from India’s traditional reliance on Russia for its defence needs, which has declined from 58 percent to 35 percent in the same period.

    India has also diversified its defence sources, reflecting its ambition to balance its defence trade with different players and avoid over-dependence on any one country. India, on the other hand, has become a lucrative market for France’s defence industry, given its huge and growing demand for modernizing its armed forces.

    India has bought Rafale fighters and Scorpene submarines from France, and has agreed to jointly produce helicopter engines and other defence equipment. France has benefited from the global trend of diversifying defence sources and reducing reliance on Russia, especially after the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It has increased its defence sales to India and other Asian countries, which are among its main buyers.

    As India emerges as a prominent and rapidly growing defence market, France utilizes its high-level interactions to explore the possibilities of defence exports. According to Statista, India was the largest arms importer and France was its largest supplier from 2018 to 2022.

    India’s defence budget has been increased by 13 percent for fiscal year 2023-24, with a significant allocation for capital expenditure Rs 1.62 lakh crore has been allocated towards capital expenditure, the purchase of new weapons, aircraft, warships, and other military equipment. India’s defence spending is expected to rise due to various security challenges in its neighbourhood.

    France is aiming to consolidate its position as India’s key defence partner and supplier.

    Expand
  4. 4. France’s Engagement in the Indo-Pacific and India’s Interests 

    France’s ambitions for the Indo-Pacific and India’s interests in this region offer many opportunities for both countries. To pursue these ambitions, France released an updated version of its Indo-Pacific strategy in February 2022, just before Russia attacked Ukraine.

    The strategy aims to assist the region in addressing security, economic, health, climate and environmental challenges. But the main objective is to protect France’s vast sovereignty interests in the region, which are under pressure from China’s growing military power and conduct. It also seeks to promote a multipolar order based on international law and cooperation with partners like India.

    France remains committed to conducting military operations and working with others in the Indo-Pacific. It needs to strengthen its cooperation with key partners like India and Japan. In the Indian Ocean, it will try to deepen its ties with India, which has a strong presence and role there.

    They also share a vision of a multipolar world and can collaborate on various challenges, such as the India-China border dispute, China’s influence in the Indian Ocean, and the tensions in the South China Sea.

    They can work together to ensure a free and fair trade route in the ocean, leveraging India’s strategic location and France’s technological advancement. They are also developing trilateral cooperation with the UAE on domains such as defence, technology and energy.

    Expand
  5. 5. Test of Diplomatic Balance 

    India’s diplomatic balance between Russia and the West is being tested by the Ukraine crisis and the Indo-Pacific region. India has abstained from condemning Russia’s intervention in Ukraine at the UN, citing its long-standing friendship and defence ties with Moscow.

    However, India has also diversified its defence sources and engaged with other partners, to enhance its security and strategic interests. India has also participated in the Quad, a grouping of four democracies that aims to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.  

    The Prime Minister’s recent visit to the US, where he signed multi-billion dollar defence deals, was part of India’s balancing act between Russia and the West. However, his visit to Paris will also test India’s diplomatic balance, as France is a key player in the EU and the Indo-Pacific.

    The visit will showcase India’s growing partnership with France, which shares its vision of a multipolar order and cooperation in the region.

    However, it may also face pressure from the West to align more closely with its position on Ukraine and Russia, which India has abstained from condemning at the UN.

    India will have to balance its strategic autonomy with its growing ties with France and the West. It remains to be seen how India will manage this delicate balance and what the implications will be for its security and interests. 

    (Sharib Ahmad Khan is a journalist and researcher who analyzes the political and strategic developments of WANA region and beyond. Aamir Shakil is a researcher and freelance journalist based in Delhi who explores international affairs through his writing.)

    (This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Major Highlights of Prime Minister’s Visit

Prime Minister Modi is visiting France on Bastille Day, the French national day. He will join the celebrations as the second Indian prime minister to do so, after Manmohan Singh in 2008. The visit also marks the 25th anniversary of the strategic partnership between India and France.

A tri-services contingent of the Indian armed forces will parade on the Champs Elysees, symbolizing the robust defence ties between the two countries.

Prime Minister Modi and President Macron will hold bilateral talks on various crucial issues, such as the Indo-Pacific Region, Climate Change, Defence and Security, Energy Security, maritime security, and trade and economic relations.

They will also review the progress of their joint initiatives, such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

The defence deal will be the main highlight of the visit. It will entail the acquisition of 26 Rafale M aircraft and three additional Scorpene submarines worth over Rs 90,000 crore (according to few media reports).

The 26 Rafale M aircraft will comprise 22 single-seat and four double-seat trainer versions. The three additional submarines will be part of the Scorpene deal under Project 75 of the Ministry of Defence, which aims to procure diesel-electric submarines for the Indian Navy.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

India-France Strategic Ties are Marking the 25th Anniversary 

India and France have a long history of defence ties that date back to the 1950s, when the Indian Air Force procured the first French fighter jet, Ouragan, which was renamed as ‘Toofani’.

The strategic partnership between the two countries was formalized in 1998 and has since witnessed a remarkable expansion.

France has become the second largest arms supplier to India after Russia, with a share of 27 percent of India’s arms imports during 2017-2021, as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The purchase of Rafale fighter jets by India from France is one of the most recent and notable manifestations of this cooperation.

The defence dimension of the strategic partnership between India and France has been bolstered by significant defence deals and increased military collaboration.

This is evident from the commissioning of the French Scorpene conventional submarines, which are being built in India under a technology transfer agreement signed in 2005, and the receipt of 36 Rafale fighter jets by the Indian Air Force.

The armed forces of India and France have also engaged in various joint exercises, such as Varuna (navy), Shakti (army) and Garuda (air force), to enhance their interoperability and cooperation.

India and France have a long-standing understanding on critical issues, which is reflected in various instances, such as France being one of the first countries with which India concluded a civil nuclear deal. It also played a crucial role in easing India’s isolation in the non-proliferation order after the 1998 nuclear tests. These are the issues that have strengthened the relations of these two countries over time.

As an indication of growing collaboration, France backs India’s quest for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as well as its accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The key pillars of the Strategic Partnership between India and France are Defence & Security cooperation, Space Cooperation and Civil Nuclear Cooperation.

Moreover, they are pursuing new opportunities of cooperation in domains such as maritime security in the Indo Pacific region, counter terrorism, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable growth and development, among others.

A notable example of the cooperation in the field of renewable energy is the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which was jointly launched by India and France to combat climate change through the advancement of solar energy solutions.

0

France’s Quest for Global Defence Clout and India’s Lucrative Market Potential

France has emerged as the largest defence exporter to India, accounting for 36 percent of India’s defence imports in 2018-22, up from 5 percent in 2013-17. This marks a significant shift from India’s traditional reliance on Russia for its defence needs, which has declined from 58 percent to 35 percent in the same period.

India has also diversified its defence sources, reflecting its ambition to balance its defence trade with different players and avoid over-dependence on any one country. India, on the other hand, has become a lucrative market for France’s defence industry, given its huge and growing demand for modernizing its armed forces.

India has bought Rafale fighters and Scorpene submarines from France, and has agreed to jointly produce helicopter engines and other defence equipment. France has benefited from the global trend of diversifying defence sources and reducing reliance on Russia, especially after the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It has increased its defence sales to India and other Asian countries, which are among its main buyers.

As India emerges as a prominent and rapidly growing defence market, France utilizes its high-level interactions to explore the possibilities of defence exports. According to Statista, India was the largest arms importer and France was its largest supplier from 2018 to 2022.

India’s defence budget has been increased by 13 percent for fiscal year 2023-24, with a significant allocation for capital expenditure Rs 1.62 lakh crore has been allocated towards capital expenditure, the purchase of new weapons, aircraft, warships, and other military equipment. India’s defence spending is expected to rise due to various security challenges in its neighbourhood.

France is aiming to consolidate its position as India’s key defence partner and supplier.

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France’s Engagement in the Indo-Pacific and India’s Interests 

France’s ambitions for the Indo-Pacific and India’s interests in this region offer many opportunities for both countries. To pursue these ambitions, France released an updated version of its Indo-Pacific strategy in February 2022, just before Russia attacked Ukraine.

The strategy aims to assist the region in addressing security, economic, health, climate and environmental challenges. But the main objective is to protect France’s vast sovereignty interests in the region, which are under pressure from China’s growing military power and conduct. It also seeks to promote a multipolar order based on international law and cooperation with partners like India.

France remains committed to conducting military operations and working with others in the Indo-Pacific. It needs to strengthen its cooperation with key partners like India and Japan. In the Indian Ocean, it will try to deepen its ties with India, which has a strong presence and role there.

They also share a vision of a multipolar world and can collaborate on various challenges, such as the India-China border dispute, China’s influence in the Indian Ocean, and the tensions in the South China Sea.

They can work together to ensure a free and fair trade route in the ocean, leveraging India’s strategic location and France’s technological advancement. They are also developing trilateral cooperation with the UAE on domains such as defence, technology and energy.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Test of Diplomatic Balance 

India’s diplomatic balance between Russia and the West is being tested by the Ukraine crisis and the Indo-Pacific region. India has abstained from condemning Russia’s intervention in Ukraine at the UN, citing its long-standing friendship and defence ties with Moscow.

However, India has also diversified its defence sources and engaged with other partners, to enhance its security and strategic interests. India has also participated in the Quad, a grouping of four democracies that aims to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.  

The Prime Minister’s recent visit to the US, where he signed multi-billion dollar defence deals, was part of India’s balancing act between Russia and the West. However, his visit to Paris will also test India’s diplomatic balance, as France is a key player in the EU and the Indo-Pacific.

The visit will showcase India’s growing partnership with France, which shares its vision of a multipolar order and cooperation in the region.

However, it may also face pressure from the West to align more closely with its position on Ukraine and Russia, which India has abstained from condemning at the UN.

India will have to balance its strategic autonomy with its growing ties with France and the West. It remains to be seen how India will manage this delicate balance and what the implications will be for its security and interests. 

(Sharib Ahmad Khan is a journalist and researcher who analyzes the political and strategic developments of WANA region and beyond. Aamir Shakil is a researcher and freelance journalist based in Delhi who explores international affairs through his writing.)

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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