Evolution of ties & Contemporary Issues INDIA – FRANCE

Historical Ties

  • France established diplomatic relations with the newly independent India in 1947. An agreement between France and India in 1948 stipulated that the inhabitants of France’s Indian possessions would choose their political future thereby giving up its claims on French Indian territories.
  • France has been a traditional partner to India right since the very independence and  pivoted towards India during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War over Bangladesh.
  • Further when the United States and Canada suspended delivery of nuclear fuel to India’s nuclear power stations after the 1974 “peaceful” Smiling Buddha nuclear test in Rajasthan, France responded by congratulating Indira Gandhi’s government, and increasing supplies of enriched uranium to India’s nascent reactors.
  • The key turning point in the relationship came in 1998. With the Soviet Union long gone, President Jacques Chirac was eager for France to fill the void and proclaimed a “strategic partnership” between India and France. Chirac’s statement on the need to rectify India’s exclusion from the international nuclear order (in particular) resonated strongly with Indian policymakers.
  • Even after the Pokhran-II nuclear tests along the Pakistan border which generated widespread international condemnation. France, in contrast to the United States and Russia, was among the few countries that did not condemn India, and instead doubled down on the strategic dialogue, as others sanctioned or isolated New Delhi.
  • In recent times also France has used its position to support New Delhi’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, notably blocking a critical Chinese motion on the revision to Article 370.
  • As of today the two countries celebrated 25 years of their strategic partnership presents an important opportunity for both to introspect on their relations. Signed in 1998, the time-tested strategic partnership has continued to gain momentum over shared values and aspirations of peace, stability and, most importantly, their desire for strategic autonomy. 
  • There are no real substantive disagreements between the two nations.


  • France has emerged as a key trading partner of India with annual trade of $12.42 billion in 2021-22.
  • It is the 11th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of $10.31 billion from April 2000 to June 2022, which represents 1.70% of the total foreign direct investment inflows into India.

Defence Ties

  • France has emerged as a key defence partner for India, becoming the second largest defence supplier in 2017- 2021.
  • France has emerged as a major strategic partner for India with crucial defence deals and increased military to military engagement. A key example of this is the inducting of the French Scorpene conventional submarines, being built in India under technology transfer agreement of 2005, and the Indian Air Force having received 36 Rafale fighter jets. The Tata group has also tied up with Airbus to manufacture C-295 tactical transport aircraft
  • The importance of the defence partnership was further underscored by the interest shown by France to be a willing partner for India as it builds its national industrial base for the defence industry and for critical strategic defence projects.

Nuclear Ties

  • France was among the first countries with which India signed a civil nuclear deal. Paris also played a critical role in limiting India’s isolation in the non-proliferation order after the 1998 nuclear tests.

International Cooperation

  • In a sign of expanding cooperation, France supports India’s bid for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as well as its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • An area of importance for both is climate change, where India has supported France in the Paris Agreement expressing its strong commitment towards mitigating climate change impact. New Delhi and Paris, as part of their joint efforts on climate change, launched the International Solar Alliance in 2015.

Maritime Ties

  • The deepening of the strategic partnership is also visible in their maritime cooperation. India and France are resident powers of the Indian Ocean and in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The importance of the Indian Ocean Region was also iterated when the leadership of both countries welcomed the “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region” which presented a blueprint for a strengthening of ties.
  •  In operational terms, Franco-Indian joint patrolling in the Indian Ocean signals New Delhi’s intent to engage with like-minded partners in expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean.
  • Maritime security has further gained momentum as both countries have articulated their common vision for a free, fair and open Indo-Pacific. As both countries share a comprehensive strategy for the Indo-Pacific (it seeks to provide comprehensive solutions for maritime security, regional cooperation, climate change adaptation)
  •  In 2022 agreed to set up an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund that will support sustainable innovative solutions for countries in the region. The two partners have formed a trilateral grouping with the United Arab Emirates to ensure maritime domain awareness and security from the east coast of Africa to the far Pacific.
  • Both countries concluded reciprocal logistic agreement which would act as force multiplier for indica as it would now be able to access French facilities in Djibouti ,Abu Dhabi and reunion island 


  • The two sides agreed to further their counterterrorism agenda by addressing a number of areas including financing of terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism, as well as misuse of the internet for terrorism and violent extremism.

Space Cooperation

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its French counterpart Centre National de Etudes Spatiales (CNES) have a history of cooperation and collaboration spanning about four decades.
  • Space cooperation between the two countries was also highlighted in the joint statement. France, along with the U.S. and Russia (formerly as the Soviet Union), has remained one of India’s closest space partners.
  • “Maintaining a secure access to space for all” and discussions on the global governance of space are some of the relatively new areas in the India-France agenda.
  • The two countries also announced joint satellite mission TRISHNA

Cyber Security

The two countries adopted cyber security and digital technology roadmap in the digital space and a cooperation agreement was signed between CDAC and ATOS for development in the field of quantum computing, artificial intelligence and widescale super computing


The bilateral educational cooperation between India and France has grown over the last few years. France and India established a Consortium of Indo-French Universities to increase educational cooperation

The framework for bilateral educational cooperation is provided by the Educational Exchange Programme (EEP), which includes mutual recognition of degrees, bolstering the research programme and increasing student-scholar research mobility through a flexible visa regime was signed.

Post AUKUS opportunity for collaboration

France resented the cancellation of Nuclear Submarine development program with Australia, after the formation AUKUS, under which US will transfer the submarine technology to Australia. France which was looking towards security partnership with Australia before the AUKUS, is now finding itself turning to India to rework its Indo-Pacific strategy.

Ukraine Conflict

Both are divergent on the issue of taking a stand against Russia, wherein India has stayed away from condemning Russia owing to its privileged partnership with Russia while France has been critical of Russian aggression. However, both believe in the need to respect UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.

Way Forward

  • Given the long-standing and trusted partnership between India and France and the intensifying geopolitical trends in the Indo-Pacific region, both are likely to build an even closer partnership that will focus on building India’s military wherewithal.
  • Even as the bilateral relationship is strong, India and France must forge more mini laterals in the Indo-Pacific, getting more countries to endorse the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy. Beyond diplomatic support and arms, France’s actual material capacity to help counter China in the Indo-Pacific remains to be seen.
  • There is a Need to strengthen cooperation from Government to Government  to People to people connect.
Online Counselling
Table of Contents