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Understanding India, France defence cooperation

A brief look at military cooperation between India and France. France has become one of India's most important defence suppliers.


India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron


Military cooperation between France and India has a long and storied history, dating back to the early 20th century. Both countries have a strong tradition of military service and have worked together on a number of international operations, particularly in the fields of peacekeeping and counter-terrorism.

One of the key areas of military cooperation between France and India is in the realm of defence technology and procurement. France has traditionally been a major supplier of military hardware to India, with deals ranging from the sale of fighter jets and submarines to the transfer of technology for the production of military equipment within India. The Rafale deal can be considered an important example in this regard. As of recently India has again entered into a contract with the French over the manufacturing of 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets to supplement the existing fleet of MiG-29K fighters. The new Rafale Marine jets would be deployed on the Indian navy warship INS Vikrant. This deal for the Indian Navy comes after the success of the purchase of Rafale jets by the Indian Army and this goes on to show that the Indian military infrastructure is increasingly open to cooperation with the French over defence equipment.

In addition to the defence equipment manufacturing sector, the recent years have also seen France and India increase their cooperation in the field of joint military exercises. The latest leg of the joint air force exercise between India and France was concluded only recently in 2022. The Garuda, was the seventh edition of the exercise that demonstrates the level of capacity and capability between the two forces. The joint naval exercise, Varuna, was also conducted in the earlier phase of the previous year, i.e. 2022 between the Indian and the French naval forces. The Garuda and Varuna exercises are also accompanied by the Shakti which is the joint military exercise between the armies of the two nations. This biennial exercise was last held in 2021 which makes the next edition to be scheduled for 2023. These facts go on to show that the defence engagement and cooperation between India and France is very comprehensive and ecompasses all the aspects of the military. These exercises not only symbolise the extent of defence cooperation but also involve the exchange of personnel and equipment. They are designed to improve interoperability between the two countries' armed forces and to enhance their ability to work together in the event of a crisis.

Moving away from the bilateral military engagements, it is also very interesting to note that India and France also have a fair share of involvement in the international peacekeeping infrastructure. Both the militaries cooperate significantly in the realm of peacekeeping operations. India ranks among the highest providers of troops to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in conflict ridden areas.

Another important area of military cooperation between France and India is in the realm of peacekeeping operations. Both countries have a long history of participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions, and have worked together on a number of occasions to help maintain stability in conflict-affected regions around the world. France on the other hand, stands as the only state to provide a national force for the UN Peacekeeping operations overseas. Apart from the tangible support to UN peacekeeping, the two countries cooperate on the humanitarian aspects of the goal as well. A case in point is a multilateral initiative called a Group of Friends launched to address the question of accountability for crimes against peacekeepers.

Finally, France and India have also cooperated in the field of counter-terrorism, with both countries working together to share intelligence and to develop strategies for combating the threat of terrorism. This cooperation has become particularly important in recent years, as the threat of terrorism has grown both regionally and globally. Both the countries, in the past, have declared their shared ambitions over curbing terrorist activities and having a comprehensive approach to address the threat. The agenda now also includes cybersecurity threats and the creation of a responsible infrastructure that promotes a safe digital ecosystem.

In conclusion, military cooperation between France and India has a strong and enduring history, and is an important factor in the maintenance of regional stability and security. Through a combination of defence technology cooperation, joint military exercises, peacekeeping operations, and counter-terrorism efforts, the two countries have been able to build a strong and effective partnership that has contributed significantly to global security.


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