During the French president’s visit to India as the chief guest on Republic Day, both countries unveiled a “Defence Industrial Roadmap” to enhance collaboration in defense production for future cooperation on “co-design and co-development” of military hardware as well as critical agreements on space cooperation.

Historical Background:

  • Since initiating diplomatic relations in June 1948, India and France have maintained a solid and amicable bond for 75 years.
  • In 1998, the two nations elevated their diplomatic ties to a Strategic Partnership. The Strategic Partnership, a first for France beyond the European Union (EU), has been pivotal in promoting extensive development of the India-France relationship.

Political Relations:

  • France has backed India’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and supported its stance on UN reforms.
  • France played a crucial role in India’s entry into international regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), and Australia Group (AG).
  • Ongoing support from France for India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
  • India facilitated France’s membership in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), and in turn, France supported India’s observer status in the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).
  • In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack in February 2019, France stood firmly with India, nationally listing the Pakistan-based ‘global terrorist’ Hafiz Saeed

Defense Cooperation:

  • Rafale Aircraft: The timely delivery of 36 Rafale aircraft underscores over 50 years of military aviation cooperation.
  • Scorpene Submarine (P75 – Kalvari): The success of the Scorpene class submarine construction program (P75 – Kalvari) as a Make-in-India model.
  • Shakti Engine Technology Transfer: Contract between Safran Helicopter Engine and HAL for forging and casting technology transfer for the Shakti Engine.
Project NameProject 75 (P75)
ObjectiveConstruction of six Scorpene-class attack submarines to bolster India’s maritime defence capabilities
Collaborating Companies·       Navantia (Spain) and French Naval Group
Construction Venue·       Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai
Technology Transfer Agreements·       Established in 2005 with France to facilitate the implementation of Project 75
History and Background·       In 1999, after the Kargil War, a 30-year submarine manufacturing plan was outlined, including Project 75 and Project 75 India (Project 75i).·       Project 75 aimed to build six conventional diesel-electric Scorpene-class submarines.·       Project 75 and Project 75i are sister projects under the 30-year plan.
Submarine Production Plan·       The 30-year plan includes designing and building 24 conventional submarines by 2030.·       Project 75 contributes six conventional submarines, while the remaining 18 will be conventional and six nuclear-powered.
Submarines·       INS Kalvari: Delivered in 2015, joined service in December 2017.·       INS Khanderi: Deployed in September 2019.·       INS Karanj: Inducted in March 2021.·       INS Vela: Joined the fleet in November 2021.·       INS Vagir: Inducted in November 2022.·       INS Vagsheer: Launched in April 2022, a reincarnation of the first Vagsheer, withdrawn from service in April 1997

Space Cooperation:

  • Framework for Cooperation (2015): The Programme for Reinforced Cooperation in Space Activities, signed in April 2015, provides a framework for collaborative initiatives.
  • Joint Vision for Space Cooperation (2018): The India-France joint vision for space cooperation, released in March 2018, guides future collaborative efforts in space activities.
  • Bilateral Launch Cooperation (GSAT-11, GSAT-30): Cooperation with Arianespace in launching GSAT-11 (December 2018) and GSAT-30 (January 2020).
  • Support for Gaganyaan Program: CNES supports India’s human spaceflight program (Gaganyaan), particularly in space medicine and the supply of crew support elements.

Civil Nuclear Cooperation:

  • Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (2008): India and France signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to France.
  • Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP): The General Framework Agreement and Early Works Agreement were signed in December 2010. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and M/s AREVA collaborated on implementing the EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) for JNPP.
  • Membership in ITER: India is a member of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a multinational consortium for constructing an experimental fusion reactor in Cadarache, France.

Economic Cooperation:

  • FDI from France: France is India’s 11th largest foreign investor, contributing USD 10.49 billion (1.68% of total FDI) from April 2000 to December 2022.
  • Sectors of Investment: Services, cement, air transport, and petroleum & and natural gas sectors account for 43% of French equity inflow.
  • Joint Economic Committee and Fast-Track System: 18th JEC meeting (November 2020) and establishment of FAST-TRACK system for expedited processes between French and Indian companies.
  • Agreements: Agreements include the Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, MoUs on Tourism, Intellectual Property, and Social Security Exemption.

Cultural Cooperation:

  • Cannes Film Festival: India actively participates in the Cannes Film Festival, showcasing Indian films through an India pavilion. India was the Country of Honour in 2022.
  • Namaste France Cultural Festival: The ‘Namaste France’ cultural festival, organized by the Government of India, celebrates India-France cultural ties.
  • A Letter of Intent on Museum and Heritage cooperation was signed between India and France in 2020, with Joint Working Groups convened in April 2020 and March 2023.
  • A Letter of Intent for cooperation on broadcasting was signed between Prasar Bharti and France Media Monde in March 2023.

Science &Technology and Education Cooperation:

  • Computing: Atos of France and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in India have jointly designed and delivered 14 supercomputers for India, including Param Siddhi, which boasts a performance of 4.6 petaflops per second.
  • India-France Knowledge Summit: The India-France Knowledge Summit is a dedicated bilateral forum for scientific and academic cooperation, with four editions held since 2018.
  • Young Professionals Scheme (2022): India and France agreed to launch a scheme for Young Professionals in the age group of 18 to 35 years, issuing 500 visas on both sides.

Challenges in India – France Relations:

  • Absence of FTA: India and France lack a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), hindering the potential for enhanced economic cooperation.
  • Trade Imbalance: There is a trade imbalance, with France exporting more to India than India to France, causing concerns for India.
  • Divergent Defence Priorities: Despite a strong defense partnership, differences in priorities and approaches exist between India and France in defense and security cooperation.
  • Intellectual Property Rights Concerns: France has raised concerns about India’s inadequate protection of intellectual property rights, impacting French businesses operating in India.

Way Forward:

  • Trade Agreements: Initiate negotiations for an India-France Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and actively progress on the India-EU BTIA for broader trade relations.
  • Defence Coordination: Establish regular dialogues to align defense and security priorities, fostering a synchronized strategy between India and France.
  • Intellectual Property Protections: Collaborate on improving intellectual property protections in India, ensuring effective enforcement and a conducive environment for French businesses.

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