• The relationship between India and France has traditionally been close and friendly.
  • The ‘strategic partnership’ between New Delhi and Paris started in 1998. Since then, there has been a wide array of collaboration and cooperation in areas such as defence, counterterrorism, nuclear energy, and space.
  • France was the first country with which India entered into an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation
    following the waiver given by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), enabling India to resume civil nuclear cooperation with the international community.
  • There is also a growing and wide-ranging cooperation in other areas such as trade and investment, culture, science & technology and education.
  • France has consistently supported India’s increasing role in the international arena, including India’s permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and NSG.
  • France was one of the first Western countries to lift the arms embargo that hit India and Pakistan for the 1965 conflict. Similarly, during the 1971 war, France was one of the few Western countries that supported the legitimacy of India’s concerns (the refugee crisis on its border with Bangladesh).
  • Perhaps most importantly, France refused to put sanctions on India after the 1998 nuclear tests and publicly opposed U.S. sanctions.
India-France Relations
India-France Relations - France

Areas of Cooperation


  • India and France share foundational values of individual liberty, human rights, rule of law and value their
    independence and strategic autonomy. The bilateral relationship between the two countries got strengthened with the establishment of a strategic partnership in 1998 and a strategic dialogue a year later.
  • As Strategic Partners, the two countries share converging views on key regional and global issues and continue to consult each other closely on strategic and security matters of mutual interest.
  • France has affirmed its support for India’s candidature for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council. In order to strengthen global nonproliferation and export control regimes, France and India have committed to continue to work jointly towards India’s accession to the multilateral export control regimes.
  • France and India support negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) on the basis of the
    Shannon mandate, which remains an essential foundation for progress on the issue in the Conference on Disarmament.
  • French President was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade of January 26, 2016. President Emmanuel Macron paid a State Visit to India from 10-12 March 2018, during which fourteen inter-governmental agreements were signed. The two leaders co-hosted the Founding Summit of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi on 11 March 2018.

Institutional Dialogue

  • India and France have a range of regular institutional dialogue. India-France Strategic Dialogue takes place between National Security Advisors from both sides.
  • Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism, Cyber Dialogue, Track 1.5 Dialogue with the participation of the Observer Research Foundation from our side and the Strategy and Policy Planning Division of the French Ministry called CAPS and the Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI as the French acronym stands) are the other active mechanisms.
  • In 2018, Both countries concluded a bilateral agreement on “Exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information”.
    • They also issued a “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region” to maintain the safety of international sea lanes, for countering maritime terrorism and piracy and for building maritime domain awareness.
    • India and France also signed an “Agreement for the provision of reciprocal logistics support between their Armed Forces” to extend logistical support on reciprocal access to their respective facilities for their armed forces.


  • Within the framework of structured talks under the Indo-French Defence Cooperation Agreement, several meetings on industrial collaboration and service exchanges are held regularly.
  • Apart from service-level staff talks, the two sides have a High Committee on Defence Cooperation (HCDC) which meets annually at the level of Defence Secretary and the French Director General of the Directorate of International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS).
  • Joint exercises like Shakti (Joint Army Exercise), Varuna (Joint Naval Exercise) and Garuda (Indo French Air Force Exercise) help improve the Defence cooperation.
  • The Inter-governmental agreement for purchase of 36 Rafale Jets from M/s Dassault Aviation, France was signed by India in New Delhi on 23 September 2016.
  • Indian Ocean Region: ‘White Shipping Agreement ‘ between France and India will enable the exchange of information on maritime traffic as well as enhance maritime domain awareness, particularly in the Indian Ocean. Active naval bases in Djibouti, Reunion islands and the UAE make France a coveted partner for India in Indian Ocean region.
  • Agreement for the provision of reciprocal logistics support between the Armed Forces (signed in March 2018) extends logistical support on reciprocal access to their respective facilities for their armed forces. This will help India spread its reach and influence, especially in western Indian Ocean as active naval bases
  • France and its defence industry actively contribute to the ‘Make in India’ programme in the defence sector.
  • Advance Defence equipment and nuclear technology will play an important role in diversifying the defence purchase requirement of India.
  • Under Project 75, Indian Navy in collaboration with French naval firm DONS is building six Scorpene class submarines.
  • Counter Terrorism: Since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, France and India have strengthened their cooperation in this area. The 2015 and 2016 attacks in France acted as a fresh catalyst. France and India have set up an intensive network of operational exchanges and joint actions between their respective intelligence and security forces.
  • Terror Financing: India and France have signed an agreement on Prevention of Consumption of Illicit Drugs & Psychotropic Substances in March 2018. This will lead to disruption of terrorist financing structures.

Civil Nuclear Cooperation

  • A landmark Agreement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was signed between India and France on 30 September 2008 which defined the framework of cooperation in this field.
  • France has acknowledged the need for India to have lifetime guarantee of fuel supply and has renewed its commitment to reliable, uninterrupted and continued access to nuclear fuel supply throughout the entire lifetime of the plants, as stated in the 2008 bilateral Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) on nuclear cooperation.
  • France and India agreed on a road map of cooperation to speed up discussions on the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in 2016. In March 2018, these discussion concluded with the Industrial Way Forward Agreement being signed between NPCIL and EDF for the Implementation of six nuclear power reactor units at Jaitapur. The construction of 6 nuclear power plants at Jaitapur will help cost-effective localisation of manufacturing in India for large and critical components under “Make in India” initiative.

Space and Technology

  • France and India view each other as important partners in space technology and related applications.
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its French counterpart National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) have a rich history of cooperation and collaboration spanning about five decades. Arianespace, France has been the major provider of launch services to Indian Geo-Stationary satellites.
  • France helped India set up the Sriharikota launch site, followed by liquid engine development and hosting of payloads.
  • ISRO and CNES (French National Space Agency) have an umbrella agreement, operating successfully since 1993, under which joint missions like Megha-Tropiques, SARAL and TRISHNA have been taken up.
    • These missions would contribute significantly to the monitoring of the environment, weather, water resources and coastal zones, and further strengthen the partnership between the two countries.
  • Building on the historical linkages in the arena of civilian space, both India and France have issued a “Joint Vision for Space Cooperation” in 2018, under which both nations will work on:
    • Bringing societal benefits of space technology
    • Imaging Earth in high resolution.
    • Space domain and situational awareness
    • Addressing the Global Challenges including climate change, where both sides will pursue their cooperation for climate monitoring on the joint missions Megha- Tropiques and Saral-Altika, the ongoing studies of the Trishna satellite for land Infrared monitoring and the Oceansat3-Argos mission
    • Exploring the solar system and beyond
    • Developing technologies for human exploration of the universe
    • Cooperation on Space Transportation Systems
  • India and France have signed an agreement for the cooperation on Gaganyaan Mission.
    • France space agency, CNES, will support scientific experiment plans and will provide French equipment, consumables, and medical instruments for Indian astronauts use.
  • France’s support was vital in India’s accession to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) and Australia Group (AG).
  • France continues to support India’s bid for accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Trade and Investment

  • The Indo-French bilateral trade has increased significantly over the last decade. It was around USD 11.42 billion in the year 2017-18. While the balance of trade was favourable to France in this year, it is usually in favour of India.
  • France is among India’s leading foreign investors, with foreign direct investment stock of €5.5 billion at the end of 2018 (6th-largest G20 investor).
    • Currently, France is the 9th largest FDI source for India.
    • Key sectors of interest to France include power, hydrocarbons, telecommunications, auto parts, agro-industries, drugs and pharmaceuticals and environment.
  • Many French companies have gained a footing in the Indian IT market. France is also a potential market targeted by Indian software companies.
  • The flagship program of Make in India is actively supported by French business and government.
  • France is also supporting India in Smart city initiative and Swaccha Bharat Campaign (wastewater treatment and development of renewable energy resources.

Climate Change

  • France and India are strengthening their cooperation for the environment and the fight against climate change. The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) started working in India in 2008, and has a mandate focused on the preservation of global public goods.
  • The International Solar Alliance (ISA), jointly launched by France and India in November 2015 during COP21, promotes the development of solar energy.
  • The blue economy and coastal resilience are shared priorities for France and India, which intend to strengthen cooperation in the field of marine scientific research and their mutual knowledge of the oceans.

Diaspora and Cultural Exchanges

  • The presence of a vibrant Indian diaspora in France, wide-ranging cultural, educational and scientific exchanges between the two countries helps making people-to-people and tourism contacts between India and France stronger.
  • Various visa facilitation schemes (like visa issuance within 48 hours) have encouraged tourism.
  • In the field of higher education, there are around 6,000 Indian students in France. India hosted the ‘Namaste France’ cultural festival in France from 15 September to 30 November 2016, showcasing a variety of Indian cultural performances, exhibitions, fairs and workshops to highlight Indian cultural heritage and a reciprocal ‘Bonjour India’ cultural festival of France in India in 2017.
  • Both the countries signed the ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement’ which aims to facilitate
    temporary circular migration based on mobility and the encouragement for a return of skills to the home country.
  • Also, “France-lndia Programme for the Future”, a French initiative aimed at fostering youth exchanges was launched, which will be vital for future growth of India-France ties.
  • With the establishment of a Ministerial-level Joint S&T Committee, there would be closer Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation through multi-stakeholder participation from both countries.

Significance of France to India

  • In today’s global world with ever-changing geopolitical equations, India needs a trusted partner like that of France. The importance of the relationship for India emanates from France being a permanent member of UNSC and NSG.
  • International Issues
    • France’s support is critical for India to get permanent seat at UNSC and NSG entry.
    • Besides the above, France opens the door for stronger strategic ties between India and Europe as a whole.
    • France can be a strategic partner in the Indian Ocean region. It plays a leading role in the Indian Ocean Commission, an organization through which significant development assistance from the European Union is channeled.
    • France continues to maintain a military presence in the Indian Ocean – with two military bases at La Reunion and Mayotte.
  • Climate Change
    • In the wake of the Paris Agreement adopted at the end of the COP-21, the bilateral cooperation between France and India is today more than ever, committed to meet the climate challenge. French technology collaboration is vital for clean energy, Swaccha Bharat, sewage treatment, etc.
  • International Solar Alliance
    • India and France launched the International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiative in Paris in 2015 on the sidelines of the COP 21.
  • Terrorism
    • 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. Attack on Charlie Hebdo and at Saint Denis underscores the need of greater cooperation in countering terrorism.

Significance of India to France

  • India with its large domestic market and largest middle-income population in the world has become an economic magnet attracting all regions of the world.
  • India’s renewable energy targets provide avenues for investment by French companies.
  • France needs to safeguard its exclusive economic zone which stretches to over 2.5 million sq. km along the Indian Ocean. India’s experience in anti-terrorist actions and strategies could benefit France in its fight against terrorism.
  • India’s Defence purchases form a significant part of France’s global arms sales, which comes as a relief against the low GDP growth scenario of the European Union.
  • French companies have expertise in modernizing transportation, utilities, planning, IT and communications, building and housing and in financing solutions. Smart City Mission, Urban rejuvenation are the areas where French companies could be benefitted by investment.

Challenges in Relations

  • Overall, the Indo-French relation is cordial and free from any predicament. However, the trade relation of India-France is far below potential.
  • India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which is still under negotiations is critical in trade potential realization. France being an influential EU member can help both sides to strike a deal.
  • France’s commitment to Belt & Road Initiative is in stark contrast to India’s stand as well; hence the strategic differences between the two nations. Also, the cooperation on Indo-Pacific is merely symbolic, which need further review in the comnig years.
  • Delays and controversies around Rafael deal are also affecting mutual trust between both the nations.
  • Reports highlight that electricity from the Jaitapur project will be more expensive than many other sources of electricity, including solar and wind power. In addition to the high costs, safety problems with the reactor design and construction have emerged in several EPRs. These safety concerns are exacerbated by India’s flawed nuclear liability law. Further, Delay in the Jaitapur project is affecting future cooperation on the nuclear front.

Way Forward

  • Improvement in economic relation is the key to a more vibrant and thriving Indo-French relation. In this regard, initiatives are needed from both the sides.
  • India should work in creating a more business-friendly environment, improve infrastructure, etc.
  • On the other hand, France being a major EU member country, should work towards finalizing the India-EU FTA.
  • Similarities between India and France’s definition of the Indo-Pacific strategy being one of inclusivity, sovereignty, engagement and freedom of navigation creates room for cooperation.
    • By building coalitions to constrain behaviour from China and defending values of multilateralism, India and France must translate their converging views on the Indo-Pacific into action.
  • The two countries must continue to work together in areas such as maritime domain awareness, terrorism, cybercrime, piracy, disaster relief and the blue economy. Engagement on a multilateral level through the QUAD, ASEM and trilateral engagements such as the India-Australia-France dialogue must also take place.
  • The rapidly developing nature of the industry calls for fast-tracked initiatives for cooperation in areas such as data protection, data localisation, investing in Indian technology and supply chain diversification.
    • In this perspective, India and France must work together on International regulations for digital data, to ensure independence from both China and the US
  • The convergence in case of Afghanistan terror issue, France emerging as a mediator between USA and Iran, India’s commitment to Digital partnerships with France under Start Up India, all indicate the growing closeness between two nations, which need to be capitalised on in the coming years
  • As with the ISA, France and India can spearhead the development of multilateral initiatives which accommodate the voices of those who are most at risk.
    • The ISA can move to provide incentives for Low Income countries, by leveraging finances to fund renewable energy projects
    • Also, India and France can work towards creating a financial mechanism within the ISA and develop action-oriented and need-based multilateral initiatives to tackle climate change


  • Traditionally, the relationship between the two countries which desired strategic autonomy has been adorned with mutual trust, respect, and cooperation. As strategic partners, India and France should continue to support each other on international matters in a spirit of mutual understanding and commitment.
  • The prospects of even limited American retrenchment, the rise of China and its power projection into regions as far away as the South Pacific, Africa and the Mediterranean, the tightening embrace between Moscow and Beijing, the breakdown of the détente between Russia and Europe, and the turbulence in the spaces between India and France demand that India and France pool their resources and act together.
  • France is a crucial partner for India, and needs to play a key role in terms of India’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific, honouring climate commitments, combatting challenges to the global tech order and rebuilding resilience in multilateralism. By reinforcing shared values and commitments to these challenges, the France-India partnership can be taken to a new level this decade.

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