France has emerged as a major supplier of critical weapon platforms like Fighter planes and Submarines along with powerful short range missiles and has been India’s fellow in taking care of India’s concerns in international forum
With an eye on India’s very old requirement for 114 medium combat aircrafts and six advanced submarines under the P-75 India programme, the French defence minister Florence Parly held talks with her Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh under the third annual defence dialogue. The French defence minister for armed forces visited Delhi on December 17, 2021 for the dialogue which is a sign of further deepening of bilateral relations with France in the arena of strategic, defence and armed forces.
Received French Minister for Armed Forces @florence_parly today and discussed bilateral defence cooperation, regional security, Indo-Pacific and France’s forthcoming Presidency of the EU Council.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 17, 2021
I reiterated India's commitment to further deepening our Strategic Partnership. pic.twitter.com/GbmLSKcHkk
According to a senior official of the Indian defence ministry, the two ministers reviewed the existing military to military cooperation with a focus on future collaborations and co-production between the manufacturers of defence systems of the two countries. The senior official of the Indian defence ministry noted that military to military cooperation has increased in spite of pandemic challenges. The two defence ministers discussed ways and means to further increase defence cooperation in all domains. The official pointed out that India and France have recently concluded their annual bilateral Army Exercise, Shakti, with focus on counter-terrorist operations, in France in November 2021.
Between India and France, there exists the highest level of close interactions and continuing confabulations both at the table and on the ground. This kind of mutual understanding is rare in India’s strategic relations with other friendly countries.
According to sources, besides defence cooperation both the ministers also exchanged views on Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. Rajnath Singh is reported to have also briefed Parly on the situation on Eastern Laddakh border of India and China. Between India and France, there exists the highest level of close interactions and continuing confabulations both at the table and on the ground. This kind of mutual understanding is rare in India’s strategic relations with other friendly countries. On the one side, both countries are engaged in promoting shared strategic interests, from Cyber security to fighting terrorism, while on the other hand France has emerged as a major supplier of critical weapon platforms like Fighter planes and Submarines along with powerful short range missiles. France has been India’s fellow in taking care of India’s concerns in international forum.
India-France Strategic Partnership is more relevant today than ever. I had an excellent meeting with my French counterpart, Ms @florence_parly.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) December 17, 2021
A wide range of bilateral, regional and defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed in the Annual Defence Dialogue today. pic.twitter.com/dT23KeUMMt
During the discussions Parly and Singh acknowledged that their views converged on number of strategic and defence issues. They expressed commitment to work together to enhance cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums. Notably, France is the current Chairman of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, which was a brainchild of India which organised its first symposium in 2008, with a grand participation of naval chiefs of littoral states of Indian Ocean. During the current French Presidency, the two ministers decided to work closely on a number of issues.
As is well known Indian Air Force has issued a RFI for 114 medium combat aircrafts and Indian Navy has also released RFI for six advanced submarines, both of which will be multi-billion dollars mega defence deal of the current decade. Florence Parly gave enough indication of a strong bid by France of winning the deal for supply of 114 medium combat aircrafts and six advanced submarines. Before the annual defence dialogue, Parly said in a seminar, that France was open and ready to provide additional Rafale aircrafts on India’s request. France is reported to have offered to manufacture the Rafale aircrafts under strategic partnership with an Indian firm public or private. Similar offer to make advanced Scorpene submarines under the strategic partnership with an Indian firm was also repeated. France claims that since Indian Air Force has already started operating the Rafale aircrafts and Scorpene submarines, it would be easier for Indian Air Force and Indian Navy to accommodate both the most advanced weapon platforms in its current fleet. There is a view in the Indian defence circles also, that new Rafale and Scorpenes can very well jell with the existing fleet of Rafales and Scorpenes.
The 3rd #AnnualDefenceDialogue between India and France took place between Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh and his French counterpart Ms @florence_parly in New Delhi, today. Defence Secretary Dr. @drajaykumar_ias also graced the occasion.— A. Bharat Bhushan Babu (@SpokespersonMoD) December 17, 2021
Press Release: https://t.co/BoYhaIofbC pic.twitter.com/JAxHTjdqbv
Sources said that Rajnath Singh referred to the 'Make In India' initiative and told Parly that it doesn’t just mean manufacturing for Indian defence forces but producing for third countries also. Responding to Rajnath’s point, Parly said that France understands the necessity of Indian content more than any other country and hence fully committed to Make In India initiative, besides further integration of Indian manufacturers into its global supply chains. Parly said that Make In India has been a reality for French companies for several years particularly for defence equipment such as submarines. As is well known French companies are assisting Indian naval dockyard MDL to make six Scorpenes in India, four of which has already been handed over to Indian Navy.
France is reported to have offered to manufacture the Rafale aircrafts under strategic partnership with an Indian firm public or private. Similar offer to make advanced Scorpene submarines under the strategic partnership with an Indian firm was also repeated.
Navies of the two countries undertake Bilateral as well as Multilateral Maritime engagements on a regular basis. This year alone the two navies have undertaken five Maritime engagements including major exercises such as VARUNA – 21 and multilateral exercise La Perouse. Continuing with this tradition, the French Navy ship FS Chevalier Paul visited Kochi harbour during the second fortnight of November for a 12-day rendezvous with Indian Navy and departed on November 30. As part of this 12-day long extensive engagement the French naval ship undertook port calls at two Indian ports Mumbai and Kochi and undertook a maritime partnership exercise with Indian naval ship Kolkata in the Arabian Sea from November 22 to 23. The exercise also involved participation of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft and MiG-29K Fighter aircraft from the Indian side. The exercise was aimed at enhancing interoperability, improving understanding and exchanging best practices between the two navies. Advanced coordinated ASW exercises, surface and anti-air exercises including weapon firings, seamanship exercises, naval manoeuvres and Cross Deck Flying Operations were undertaken during the exercise. The recent interactions highlight the synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the two friendly navies. These interactions further underscore the shared values as partner navies, in ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.
Prior to this maritime engagement, the National security advisor Ajit Doval visited Paris in early November, 2021 to have a chat with Diplomatic Advisor of French President Emmanuel Bonne. After this meeting, Doval and Bonne agreed to further deepen defence and security partnership by enhancing intelligence and information sharing, bolstering capabilities, expanding military drills and pursuing new initiatives in maritime, space and cyber domains. According to Indian Embassy in Paris, “both agreed to strengthen bilateral defence and security partnership through enhanced intelligence and information sharing, operational cooperation, bolstering mutual capabilities, expanding bilateral exercises and pursuing new initiatives in maritime, space and cyber domains.” NSA Doval led the Indian delegation during the discussions and the French side was headed by Bonne. Doval also met Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Florence Parly, the Minister of Armed Forces. In the Strategic Dialogue and other meetings, France stressed its continuing commitment to the Indo-Pacific region as a “resident power”, and partnership with India as a “major pillar” of its strategy for the region. “Doval reiterated that France is one of India’s premier global and Indo-Pacific partners,” the Indian embassy said. It said the two sides reaffirmed the vision articulated by Modi and Macron, most recently during their meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit in Rome, that their strategic partnership has a vital role to play in advancing peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
France understands the necessity of Indian content more than any other country and hence fully committed to Make In India initiative, besides further integration of Indian manufacturers into its global supply chains.
After the India France strategic dialogue, the two countries resolved to expand the defence ties and help India in achieving the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self Dependent India) in defence industrialisation through joint research and technology development in India across a wide range of advanced capabilities. It is significant and worth noting that France’s reiteration to expand strategic cooperation with India comes nearly two months after the unveiling of a new security alliance (AUKUS) by Australia, the UK and the US – perceived as a counter to China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. The unexpected announcement of the alliance, which involves building submarines for Australia, had angered the French government after Canberra pulled out of a separate submarine deal with Paris.
In the backdrop of continuing high level strategic and defence dialogues, the visit of Florence Parly on December 17 will further cement the strategic and defence cooperation between India and France.