Indo-French relations [fr]

As early as the 1980s France wished to give greater scope to its relations with India. France bet on India’s strategic, diplomatic and economic emergence, and steadfastly supports India’s requests in several strategic matters: a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, better participation in the decisions taken at international fora (such as the expanded G8 and G20), access to civil nuclear cooperation.

I. Political relations

As early as the 1980s France wished to give greater scope to its relations with India. This closer bilateral relationship was concretized with the establishment of a strategic partnership in 1998, and a strategic dialogue a year later. This dialogue is based on annual high-level meetings and consultations conducted twice a year by the Diplomatic Advisor to the French President and the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India.

The State visit of President Emmanuel Macron in March 2018, less than two years after that of President François Hollande in January 2016, marked the remarkable deepening of the of the Indo-French strategic partnership and helped boost the dynamism of our economic, university, scientific and cultural exchanges.

In return, President Emmanuel Macron received Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22-23 August 2019 for a bilateral visit at Château de Chantilly. This meeting was followed by Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the G7 Summit in Biarritz from 24 to 26 August 2019. President Macron had, in fact, desired India to be an “invited country” at this summit of G7 heads of State and government.

The strategic partnership comprises the following focal areas:

Civil nuclear cooperation

The bilateral cooperation agreement for the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which entered into effect on 14 January 2010, defined the framework of our cooperation in this field. Two agreements signed on 6 December 2010 completed its legal aspects. Several cooperation projects in the area of nuclear research and safety are in the process of being finalized. The project of building a nuclear power plant in Jaitapur now involves 6 EPRs (European pressurized reactors), with a total capacity of 9900 MW. The signing of the industrial agreement between EDF and NPCIL during President Macron’s State visit in March 2018 was a major landmark for progress of the project. The visit of the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, helped work out an action plan for the coming months for all the stakeholders concerned. Read more…

Defence cooperation

Indo-French cooperation in this area is ambitious and several collaborative projects are currently being considered. Bilateral military contacts are being strengthened through joint exercises.

France and its defence industry also actively contribute to the “Make in India” programme in the defence sector. The first conventional submarine, Scorpene, which started being built in India in 2008 with transfer of technology and support from DCNS, began sea trials in 2015, and the second in January 2017. An agreement on India’s acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets was concluded in September 2016. This has paved the way for unprecedented technological and industrial cooperation for the next four decades to come. Read more…

Maritime security cooperation: France and India’s respective leaders desired in March 2018 to give a fresh impetus to this longstanding area of our cooperation, which was initiated with the launch of the first bilateral naval exercise, Varuna, in 1983. Now bolstered by a joint strategic vision in the Indian Ocean, the cooperation between our two countries has become resolutely operational in several areas:

  • Exchange of information in the area of maritime surveillance: implementation since 2017 of a “White Shipping” agreement and the conclusion in March 2018 of a general security agreement laying down the framework for the daily exchange of data on the Indian Ocean region for the purposes of security and stability in the region;
  • Heightened cooperation at multilateral bodies: France and India are determined to deepen their coordination at international organisations through concrete steps: support to France’s candidacy at the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), where India plays a prominent role; France’s chairing of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in 2020, which will be an opportunity to closely associate India with France’s priorities.

Counter-terrorism cooperation

France and India have strengthened their cooperation in this area since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The terrorist attacks that France has been facing since 2015 acted as a fresh catalyst. Our two countries have set up an intensive network of operational exchanges and joint actions between their respective intelligence and security forces, notably cooperation on investigations between their respective intervention units, GIGN and the NSG. Every year, a bilateral working group brings together all the players concerned by counter-terrorism. The March 2018 State visit helped institute two areas of deepened cooperation: prevention and fight against radicalization, including online radicalization and through social networks, and the financing of terrorism. India thus participated in the international conference on this matter, “No Money for Terror”, organized by France in April 2018, and is a member of the Paris Coalition, which resulted from it. Read more…

Space cooperation

France and India celebrated 50 years of their exemplary cooperation in this area in 2014.

The agreement on the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, signed on 30 September 2008, extended and clarified the areas of cooperation, particularly emphasizing the study of climate change using space-based facilities for Earth observation, or the development of telecommunications satellites for commercial purposes. This agreement made it possible to develop the Megha-Tropiques satellite, launched on 12th October 2011, and the SARAL satellite, which was put in orbit on 25th February 2013.

The April 2015 MoU signed between the French (CNES) and Indian (ISRO) space agencies enriched cooperation projects. It led to the finalizing of a joint mission of India’s Oceansat-3 satellite hosting France’s Argos system for climate monitoring and tracking, scheduled to be launched in 2019. It has also resulted in the third jointly developed satellite, Trishna, for thermal infrared imaging. France is also considering contributing to India’s space agency, ISRO’s, upcoming inter-planetary missions to Mars and Venus. January 2017 saw new cooperation in satellite launch technology.

The ambitious Joint Vision for Space Cooperation signed in March 2018 paved the way for coordinating our space and maritime collaborations and enabled the commencement of work on a constellation of micro-satellites for maritime surveillance.

Finally, France supports India’s ambition to launch a human space flight by 2022. In September 2018, CNES thus concluded an agreement with ISRO for training programmes and bioastronautics. Read more…

Cybersecurity/digital cooperation

A dedicated bilateral dialogue on this subject was instituted in 2013. The recent visit of the Ambassador for Digital Affairs, Henri Verdier, concretised the desire of both parties to deepen their cooperation in this area as well as on issues related to Internet governance, regulation of the digital world and new technologies.

Foreign policy

France and India share a common vision of reforms to be made in global governance processes. France supports India’s candidacy for a seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and multilateral export control regimes (accession to MTCR in June 2016, Wassenaar Arrangement in 2017, the Australia Group in January 2018). France and India hold discussions on their positions at multilateral, UN as well as regional bodies. They hold a biannual strategic dialogue between the Diplomatic Advisor to the French President and the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India as well as annual consultations at the Foreign Secretary level. Since the State visit of the President of the French Republic in March 2018, regional consultations have been held on Asia, Africa, North Africa and the Middle East.

At the regional level

At the regional level, France fully supports India in its fight against terrorism and calls on all countries to fight effectively against terrorism originating from their territory or territories under their control. France also updates India regarding its position on sensitive regional issues (Iran, Afghanistan, Syria).

Combating climate change

With regard to combating climate change, France and India actively strengthened their cooperation under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Together, they spearhead the implementation of this Agreement. They jointly launched the International Solar Alliance, a new international organization headquartered in New Delhi, which federates the endeavours of developing countries to accelerate the deployment of solar energy on a vast scale. The first Summit of the International Solar Alliance was held in New Delhi on 11th March 2018, co-chaired by the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of India. Over 70 countries have since joined this initiative. France and India have also developed their bilateral cooperation on energy storage, e-mobility and sustainable urban development. The French Development Agency (AFD), established in India in 2008 – where it is mandated to preserve global public goods – has extended a 1.8-billion-euro credit line for projects linked to Smart Cities and sustainable development projects.

II. Economic relations

Bilateral trade has increased significantly over the past fifteen years. More than the volume of bilateral trade, the dynamism of Indo-French economic relations springs from the establishment of French companies in India. Today, more than 550 French subsidiaries from a wide spectrum of sectors are present in India and employ a workforce of around 3,00,000 persons. The total French investment stock in India rose to 5.75 billion euros by the end of 2016. This figure rose swiftly over the past few years, having doubled since 2013 and almost quadrupled since the financial crisis.

Having consistently registered an imbalance skewed to France’s detriment between 2008 and 2016, the Indo-French goods trade has gradually become more balanced over the past four years. Falling from 2.6 to 2.2 billion euros, our bilateral deficit dropped to 765 million euros in 2016 and to a mere 7 million euros in 2017. In fact, according to figures published by India, France enjoys a trade surplus of 1.8 billion USD in 2017. Shooting up to 23.1% to a historic high of 3.91 billion euros, French goods exports to India recorded their highest growth in 2017 in the past ten years. Conversely, after having reached the historic level of 5.4 billion euros in 2015, our imports from India contracted by 12.9% in 2017. This restoration of the Indo-French trade balance mainly came about due to the aeronautical sector – the top export sector at 49% of the volume of trade in 2017.

France collaborates with India under the latter’s “Smart Cities” initiative. French companies specializing in the sustainable urban development sector are already active in around twenty Indian cities (metro, water, etc.).

French companies are present throughout the territory of India but are principally concentrated in its large metropolitan cities (Delhi-NCR, Mumbai/Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata).

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French Companies in India

III. Cultural, scientific and technological cooperation

Developing bilateral cooperation on higher education, science, technology, research and innovation is a priority for France.

The acclaimed cultural festival, “Bonjour India”, first launched with resounding success in 2009-2010, presented a hundred different shows during its second edition in 2013. The third acclaimed edition was held in 2017-2018.

In the field of higher education, 10,000 Indian students chose France for pursuing higher education in 2019. The target of having 10,000 students annually in France, set for 2020 by President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has thus been attained well in advance.

Apart from an attractive visa policy, France’s carries out a twofold endeavour: support to scholarship programmes, and Indian and French institutions for developing inter-university agreements. Several agreements have been negotiated (academic mobility, recognition of each other’s degrees), while others have been signed for encouraging more Indian scholars to study in France.

People-to-people contacts between France and India are also increasing with the development of tourism. The facilitation of visa procedures, with visa issuance within 48 hours and the implementation of biometrics, has encouraged this trend. In 2018, around 8,00,000 Indian tourists visited France, which desires to host them in greater numbers.

Scientific and technological cooperation is another key area of our partnership, which was given a fresh impetus with the establishment of an Indo-French Commission for Scientific and Technological Cooperation. This cooperation is based on a unique structure bringing French and Indian researchers and scientists together, CEFIPRA/IFCPAR (Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research), which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018. The development of joint research laboratories in promising areas (neuroscience, chemistry); the two French Institutes in Delhi and Puducherry; the research centres and a very strong presence of French research in the private sector (10,000 to 20,000 persons) completes our presence.

Last modified on 17/09/2019

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