India-France relations: significance and challenges – Explained, pointwise

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Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited France on the 25th anniversary of the India-France strategic partnership. The visit was special as the Prime Minister was invited to be the chief guest at the Bastille Day parade. The visit concluded with the signing of several agreements and a series of defense deals. The two countries also outlined a roadmap for the next 25 years of India-France ties (Horizon 2047) which herald a new phase in India’s relations with France. 

What are outcomes of the Indian PM’s recent visit?  

“Horizon 2047” agreement was signed. It included the strategic road map for the next 25 years. It has three pillars — 1) Partnership for security and sovereignty 2) Partnership for the planet and 3) Partnership for the people. 

This agreement includes a variety of fields of cooperation i.e., defence, space, nuclear energy, climate change and green transitions as well as education and people-to-people ties. Through this roadmap, the India-France Strategic Partnership will further diversify into new areas of cooperation while also deepening existing programmes of shared interest. 

A roadmap to cooperate in the Indo-Pacific region was also released. The agreement includes military and naval exchanges and a trilateral development fund to help countries in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Under defence cooperation, Safran, the French company and the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) will jointly develop jet engines for the advanced medium combat aircraft. Submarines are proposed to be jointly built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders and the Naval Group of France. 

A brief background of India-France relations 

India and France have traditionally close and friendly relations. In 1998, the two countries entered into a Strategic Partnership which is symbolic of their convergence of views on a range of international issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship.  

The areas of defence & security cooperation, space cooperation and civil nuclear cooperation constitute the principal pillars of our Strategic Partnership. Apart from these, India and France are increasingly engaged in new areas of cooperation such as maritime security in the Indo Pacific region, counter terrorism, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable growth and development among others. 

India and France support a multi-polar world order. France has continued to support India’s claim for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council and the reforms of the United Nations. France’s support was vital in India’s accession to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) and Australia Group (AG). France continues to support India’s bid for accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).  

India and France have consistently condemned terrorism and have resolved to work together for adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN. 

India and France also have a robust economic partnership. French businesses and industry have forged linkages with the Indian economy and contribute significantly to India’s goal to become an Atmanirbhar Bharat. There are over 1000 French businesses in India in different sectors. France is the 7th largest foreign investor in India representing 2 % of the total FDI inflows into India (2020). 

What is the significance of the India and France relations? 

Strategic autonomy: France-India strategic relationship is built on a respect for each other’s strategic autonomy. For example, unlike other European countries, France has avoided any comment on India’s internal affairs or its foreign policy choices, like Russia’s war in Ukraine.  

On the other hand, India also avoided any mention of the violence in France after the killing of a teenager belonging to the Algerian immigrant community.  

Both countries are happy with their bilateral relations and show no desire to pull the other into a coalition, grouping or alliance the other is a part of. 

French support after nuclear tests: In 1974, and in 1998, France did not join the western push to sanction India for its nuclear tests either; it even stepped in with uranium supplies to power the Tarapur reactors.  

Strategic partnership: Franco-Indian strategic partnership comes at the top in comparison to 30 strategic partnerships with various countries. It has remained strong during difficult or good times.  

Franco-Indian strategic partnership covers all dimensions of a full spectrum partnerships, like defence, space, climate change, critical technologies and people-to-people ties.  

After the recent visit, Franco-Indian defence ties has developed from a mere buyer-seller model to that of jointly designing, developing and co-producing.  

Indo-pacific: France maintains a notable presence as a resident power in the Indo-Pacific region, with overseas territories such as La Reunion, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia, and military bases in the area. 

Joint exercises between the two countries, use of French military bases by Indian forces and achieving real-time maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean are of paramount importance for India. 

China: India can counter China in the maritime space with the active support of France along with Quad partners. 

Russia: Gradually France is replacing Russia as a major defense partner of India.  Major reasons behind gradual shift in Russia- India defence relations are: First, after invasion of Ukraine, Russia is facing many internal and external challenges.  Second, Russia is moving increasingly close towards China.  

Technological assistance: The collaboration between India and France in domains such as supercomputing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies holds significant importance for India’s future and has the potential to shape the course of their relationship for the next 25 years. 

Horizon 2047 agreement is an indication that France understands that no global problem can be tackled meaningfully without India’s participation. France is also determined to support India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council 

What are challenges in India-France relationship? 

The Rafale deal did not find mention in the joint communiqué, issued after the Paris summit between Mr Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron. Reference to the construction of three more Scorpene submarines was dropped from a later version of the bilateral statement “Horizon 2047”. 

The French President signaled his country’s discomfort with the United States’ China containment policy with a state visit to Beijing. Also, France’s stand on China’s BRI contrasts with that of India. Therefore, France might not be a reliable partner in case of confrontation China.  

Seven years after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and France for setting up the world’s largest nuclear power plant at Jaitapur (Maharashtra), the project has not seen much progress.   

France is strong enough to have something to offer on the diplomatic, military, space, and nuclear sectors to India, but not strong enough to shape international order, norms, or rules, or to balance China if tensions escalate. While India holds significance for France, particularly in trade and defense cooperation, it may not be considered the foremost partner when addressing critical challenges such as Russian aggression or terrorism in Africa. 

France’s GDP is almost equal to that of India’s, but bilateral trade remains far below potential. Trade with France constitutes only 1.41% of India’s total international trade. 


The divergence between India and France on the war in Ukraine has not endangered the development of their bilateral ties. This is because of the trust developed between the two countries over the last 25 years and mutual understanding of each other’s positions on the subject 

France and India are making strategic commitments to each other for the long term. These two middle powers share a similar worldview. Both nations pursue independent foreign policies and value strategic autonomy, as they believe it will empower them to influence a multipolar world. Importantly, both countries recognize that their collective efforts will significantly enhance the likelihood of achieving this goal. 

Sources: The Hindu, Indian Express (Article 1 and Article 2) and Business Standard 

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