Why is India buying so much military weapons from France?

Why is India buying so much military weapons from France?

“India will have a decisive role in our future; it is also a strategic partner and a friendly country,” declared Emmanuel Macron a few minutes after awarding the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 14, 2023, invited to attend the traditional parade on the Champs-Élysées.

It is true that since the signing of a strategic partnership in 1998, the Franco-Indian bilateral relationship has experienced unprecedented growth in several areas: cultural, economic, diplomatic, but above all strategic. Nuclear energy, aerospace, research and development, arms exports and joint military exercises are all key sectors that promote the development of this relation.

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Since 2018, this strategic partnership has included a strong Indo-Pacific dimension. Through the voice of their respective heads of state, Emmanuel Macron et Narendra Modi, the two countries each formalized their own Indo-Pacific strategy in 2018, a few months apart.

A long shared history

France and India maintain an ancient bilateral relationship, dating back to the XNUMXthe century. At the time, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of Louis XIV, pursued the ambition of building a colonial empire in South Asia. Five “Indian trading posts” remained under French sovereignty until 1954: Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanaon, Mahé and Chandernagore.

in XXe century, the two countries have maintained good relations symbolized by the respect expressed between their respective heads of state: Jawaharlal Nehru and Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac and Indira Gandhi (perfectly French speaking), and now Emmanuel Macron and Narendra Modi (which also applies to the French president of regular criticism from human rights NGOs, due to the policy pursued in this area by the Indian Prime Minister).

Furthermore, France was one of the only countries to not to condemn Indian nuclear tests in 1998 and supports India in its objective of become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Identifiable as “great middle powers” according to a formula used in 2009 by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and which still seems relevant today - India is still not a member of the UN Security Council, the operational capabilities of its army are limited and the growth of its economy barely compensates for a significant annual demographic – France and India have regularly adopted convergent foreign policies, notably during the war in Iraq in 2003, marked by a desire for strategic autonomy in the practice of their respective foreign policies and a rejection of bloc policies.

If France is today well anchored in the Western camp as a member of NATO, and India a major player in the “Global South” through its participation in BRICS, the two countries still claim a foreign politic independent.

This common vision of international relations has enabled India and France to develop a deep defense partnership.

Defense Partnership

Following its independence in 1947, India did not want to depend exclusively on the former British colonizer. It then turned to France to purchase military equipment. In 1953, 120 fighter planes of type Ouragan are purchased from the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault. The embargo declared in 1965 on arms sales to India to follow up the Indo-Pakistani wars was lifted on the French side in 1966. Since then, sales of armaments French companies in India are booming.

Over the period 2002-2023, France is the second largest supplier of Indian arms after Russia, while India is the main French customer. Several contracts are emblematic: six class submarines “Indianized” Scorpene made by the Bombay shipyards are now in service and thirty-six Rafale fighter jets have been delivered between 2020 and 2022. In 2023, after July 14, India announced the acquisition three submarines and twenty-six additional Rafale aircraft.

Exporting arms is not a neutral act, devoid of any political interest, because it leads to diffusion training standards, operational culture, technological familiarization and doctrinal application. The sale of arms locks in a defense relationship on which geopolitical and economic interests are superimposed.

Added to these civil-military cooperations is the increase in bilateral military exercises and multilateral as well as active participation in regional forums (Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, Indian Ocean Rim Association).

The Indo-Pacific turning point

In 2021, theAucus, a tripartite agreement between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom led to the cancellation of a French-Australian submarine contract. Since then, the French Indo-Pacific strategy has favored the development of its relations with the countries of the Indian Ocean. This new scheme strategic frees up room for maneuver for French diplomacy in order to strengthen its links with other countries in the region, primarily India, now the cornerstone of its foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific.

Proof if there is one, on July 14, 2023, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was the guest of honor of the military parade on the Champs-Élysées. Of the Indian troops paraded while Indian Rafales flew over the Parisian avenue.

A few moments later, Indian and French diplomacy published a joint press release to celebrate 25 years of the strategic partnership. The “Roadmap of 25e anniversary of the Franco-Indian strategic partnership by 2047: towards the centenary of Franco-Indian diplomatic relations" listed twelve points as so many pillars of collaboration in the Indo-Pacific regional whole: seabed, space, maritime cooperation, solar alliance, Franco-Indian campus, Oceanian Pacific.

Reunion Island, laboratory of Franco-Indian relations

A French territory in the Indian Ocean, the island of Reunion, illustrates this new Indo-Pacific component of the Franco-Indian relationship.

France, a power bordering the Indo-Pacific through the exercise of its sovereignty in its overseas communities, intends to use the island of Reunion as a relay for good Franco-Indian understanding. A large part of Reunion's population is of Indian origin and an Indian consulate on Reunion Island has been open since 1983. In 2018, the two countries signed an agreement of logistics cooperation giving access to the Reunion base to Indian naval forces.

Joint patrols involving an aircraft Indian P-8I are regularly carried out. Thanks to its range of 2.200 kilometers, this device can cover and monitor from Reunion the entire eastern coast of Africa, including the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz, which constitutes a plus -considerable strategic value for the Indian armed forces. Reunion Island is therefore gradually becoming a strategic platform for collaboration military Franco-Indian in the area.

A collaboration dictated by national interests

The French and Indian strategies above all serve the national imperatives specific to each of the two countries. For the France, it is appropriate to appear as a legitimate regional power and to diversify its foreign partners. For India, tumultuous relations with powerful neighbor China and rival Pakistan remain the defining geopolitical factor.

Each strategy therefore has its own specificities and can sometimes restrict the prospects of collaborations Franco-Indian, particularly in their relationship with the two great powers American and Chinese, and especially vis-à-vis Russia, which, since its invasion of Ukraine, remains a major partner of India.

But these differences will not affect the bilateral relationship in the short term. The Franco-Indian relationship remains in good shape, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.The Conversation

Paco Milhiet, visiting fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (NTU-Singapore), associate researcher at theCatholic Institute of Paris (ICP).

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

Why is India buying so much military weapons from France? 2 the conversation

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