What Makes the India-France ‘Strategic Partnership’ Tick

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What Makes the India-France ‘Strategic Partnership’ Tick Blog Image

Why in News?

  • The strategic partnership between India and France has witnessed significant growth and evolution over the years, marked by diplomatic ties, defence collaborations, and cultural engagements.
  • President Emmanuel Macron's recent visit to India underscores the unique and special nature of this partnership.
  • It is important to delve into the historical origins of this alliance, the building of the partnership, and the current state of cooperation, encompassing defence, space, and civilian sectors.

Historical Origins of Strategic Convergence between India and France

  • President Chirac’s Historical India Visit
    • The roots of the strategic convergence between India and France can be traced back to the late 1990s when India, under the leadership of PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, conducted a series of nuclear tests in May 1998.
    • This act not only marked India's formal entry into the nuclear weapons club but also set the stage for the establishment of its first Strategic Partnership.
    • French President Jacques Chirac's presence as the chief guest at India's Republic Day in the same year was symbolic and laid the groundwork for a relationship that would prove to be resilient and mutually beneficial.
  • France’s Recognition of India’s Nuclear Programme
    • President Chirac's declaration during his visit that India's exclusion from the global nuclear order was an anomaly was a pivotal moment.
    • It signified France's recognition of India's nuclear capabilities and its stance on rectifying what it saw as an unjust exclusion.
    • This early acknowledgment demonstrated a level of understanding of India's security imperatives that set France apart from other global powers at the time.
  • First P-5 Country to Endorse India’s Entry into Security Council
    • In the aftermath of India's nuclear tests, France emerged as the first P-5 (permanent member of the UN Security Council [UNSC]) country to engage in a constructive dialogue with India.
    • This dialogue was characterised by a nuanced comprehension of India's security concerns, particularly in the context of regional dynamics.
    • Additionally, France openly supported India's aspiration for a permanent seat in an expanded and reformed UNSC, further solidifying the basis for a long-term partnership.
  • Strategic Alignment on Multipolarity
    • The historical context of the Cold War and its aftermath played a crucial role in shaping the convergence between India and France.
    • Both nations, despite having different historical trajectories, found common ground in their commitment to multipolarity in international relations.
    • French discomfort with a unipolar world order, articulated by Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine's description of the US as a 'hyper power,' resonated with India's own ambitions of seeking strategic autonomy in a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape.
  • France’s Early Focus on Asia-Pacific
    • Furthermore, France's early realisation of the geopolitical shift towards the Asia-Pacific, coupled with its status as a resident power in the Indian Ocean, positioned India as a natural and strategic partner in the region.
    • This foresight set the stage for future collaborations, particularly in defence and security, as both nations sought to navigate the evolving global dynamics post the Cold War era.

France-India Strategic Partnership

  • Evolution of the Strategic Dialogue
    • The initial dialogue, primarily centred around nuclear issues, expanded over the years.
    • Later, the strategic dialogue expanded to inclusion of defence, space, counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing, and cyber-security in the bilateral agenda.
    • India-France strategic dialogue featured gradual broadening of the partnership to encompass global challenges, demonstrating a shared commitment to addressing pressing issues beyond regional concerns.
  • Defence Collaboration Milestones
    • Landmark achievements in defence collaboration include the successful completion of projects such as the Scorpene submarines.
    • The conclusion of the government-to-government agreement for 36 Rafale aircraft, resolving earlier negotiations' impasse was a significant milestone in India-France relationship.
    • Technology-sharing MoU and acquisitions of short-range missiles and radar equipment are important milestones in India-France partnership.
  • Naval, Air, and Ground Exercises
    • Joint naval exercises initiated in 2001, followed by air force exercises in 2004 and army exercises in 2011.
    • India and France are having regular joint exercises, enhancing interoperability and mutual understanding between the armed forces of both nations.
    • These exercises not only strengthen military capabilities but also foster a deeper understanding of each other's operational procedures.
  • Strategic Agreements for Future Collaborations
    • During PM Modi's visit to France, announcements were made regarding further defence acquisitions.
    • An agreement was signed for three more Scorpenes with enhanced features and 26 Rafale M aircraft for India's new aircraft carrier.
    • The India-France Defence Industrial Roadmap, concluded during President Macron's visit, outlining collaborative initiatives aligned with India's goal of self-reliance (atmanirbharta).
  • Technology Transfer and Aerospace Industry Growth
    • The defence collaboration, particularly the Rafale deal, has facilitated significant technology transfer.
    • The offset target of 50% in the Rafale deal has catalysed the growth of India's aerospace industry.
    • Agreements with companies like Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. and Airbus for setting up assembly lines for civilian helicopters, showcasing a commitment to furthering technological cooperation.
  • Broadening and Deepening the Partnership
    • Efforts have been made to extend the partnership beyond government domains into commercial and civilian spaces.
    • Joint working groups on various subjects, including agriculture, environment, civil aviation, IT, and telecom, showcase the diversified engagement between the two nations.
    • Educational collaboration has been a notable success, with the number of Indian students in France surpassing 10,000, and a target set for 30,000 by 2030.
    • The operationalisation of the Young Professionals Scheme and the possibility of French universities establishing campuses in India further enhance people-to-people connections.

Challenges/Maturity in India-France Strategic Partnership

  • Private Expression of Differences
    • Recognition that public airing of differences can be detrimental to the strength of the partnership.
    • Maturity displayed in expressing disagreements in private discussions rather than through public channels.
    • The private handling of disputes reflects a shared understanding of the partnership's value and the need for a united front on the global stage.
  • Quarter-Century of Nurturing Ties
    • The relationship between India and France has matured and deepened over the last quarter-century.
    • The longevity of the partnership showcases the resilience of the ties even in the face of evolving geopolitical landscapes.
    • The understanding built over decades has contributed to the stability of the relationship, enabling both nations to weather challenges with a long-term perspective.
  • Strategic Autonomy and Non-Alignment
    • Both India and France value strategic autonomy, each in its own fashion.
    • India adheres to a policy of non-alignment, emphasising its independence in foreign policy decisions.
    • France's withdrawal from NATO's integrated military command in 1966 underscores its commitment to maintaining control over its nuclear deterrent and sovereignty.
    • Despite these differences in approach, the partnership has flourished, reflecting a mature understanding of each other's strategic priorities.


  • The India-France Strategic Partnership has transcended geopolitical shifts, evolving into a multifaceted alliance that spans defence, space, education, and more.
  • Macron's recent visit solidifies the bond, emphasising the significance both nations attach to this relationship.
  • As the partnership broadens and deepens, it stands as a testament to the mutual respect, understanding, and maturity between two nations with rich histories and diverse trajectories.

Q1) What is the significance of the India-France strategic partnership?

The India-France strategic partnership holds significant geopolitical importance, fostering cooperation in defence, space, and counter-terrorism, strengthening both nations' regional and global influence.

Q2) How has the strategic partnership evolved over time?

Over time, the India-France strategic partnership has deepened, marked by defence collaborations like the Rafale deal, joint space missions, and shared commitment to climate action, reflecting a multifaceted alliance.

Source: The Hindu