By Staff Correspondent
Amid the pomp of the Bastille Day parade, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi standing as the guest of honour, France and India reinforced their deepening defence alliance. The two country’s leaders agreed on the co-development of fighter jet engines and the construction of three additional Scorpene-class submarines. However, no explicit mention was made regarding the proposed purchase of 26 Rafale-Marine fighter jets, a deal that had previously received preliminary approval from the Indian Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).
This two-day visit marked only the second time an Indian prime minister has had the honour of attending the Bastille Day celebrations. A 241-member tri-service Indian Armed Forces contingent participated in the march down the Champs-Elysées while Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Rafale jets adorned the sky.
“The defence ties have always been a basic pillar of bilateral relations. This is a symbol of mutual trust between the two countries,” PM Modi stated in a press conference preceding the delegation-level talks.
Despite the Indian DAC’s initial approval to purchase additional Rafale fighter jets, with an estimated cost of $5 to $6 billion, the issue was conspicuously absent from the diplomatic documents and public statements during the visit. However, a later press release from Dassault Aviation claimed that the Indian government had chosen the Rafale jets to equip the Indian Navy following an international competition and successful trial campaign.
The bilateral roadmap ‘Horizon 2047’, outlining a 25-year plan for the ties between the two nations, made no mention of the additional Rafale jets but welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India’s Mazagon Dockyard Limited (MDL) and France’s Naval Group for submarine construction. The language regarding the “construction of three additional submarines under the P75 programme” was reported to have been removed from the document without explanation.
The roadmap also highlighted the joint development of a combat aircraft engine by the end of 2023 through a partnership between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and France’s Safran Helicopter Engine. An agreement was also reached for engine development for heavy-lift helicopters under the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter [IMRH] programme.
France and India have solidified their position as critical defence partners, with India becoming the top buyer of French weaponry over the past five years. After Russia, France is now the second-highest supplier of weapons to India.
In a broader geopolitical context, the leaders of both nations expressed shared concerns about international fragmentation, particularly in light of the ongoing Ukraine war. PM Modi stressed the need for diplomatic dialogue and united efforts to address the impacts of global crises.
The visit concluded with PM Modi announcing the launch of India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) in France and the opening of a new Indian consulate in Marseille.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, affirmed the long-standing trust between the two nations with an ambitious roadmap aimed at strengthening ties over the next 25 years. He also underscored their mutual vision for an open and free Indo-Pacific region, marking a significant step towards their strategic cooperation.
As India and France strengthen their defence partnership, how these collaborations will influence regional geopolitics and security dynamics remains to be seen.