Modi and Macron agree on 25-year plan to deepen cooperation

French President Emmanuel Macron greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 13. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Nathan Laine.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to boost cooperation with France in defense, nuclear energy and space as part of a 25-year plan to deepen ties as the South Asian nation presents itself as a bulwark against China.

Speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron during a trip to Paris, he said defense is a key pillar of the Franco-Indian relationship. India has said it plans to purchase three Scorpene submarines made by France’s Naval Group and 26 Rafale fighter jets built by Dassault Aviation SA.

“We are celebrating the 25-year anniversary of our strategic partnership,” Modi told reporters at the Elysee Palace on Friday. “Based on this, we are preparing road maps for the next 25 years.”

He described the two countries as natural partners and said India was considering joint production of defense equipment, including helicopter engines, as well as cooperation on small modular nuclear reactors. Progress has been slow on bigger reactors made by Electricite de France.

Modi was invited as guest of honor to attend the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris, which celebrates the French Revolution, and was given the Legion of Honor, France’s most prestigious award. Previous foreign guests include former U.S. President Donald Trump and German ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Macron has sought to deepen political and business ties with emerging powers including India, the world’s most populated country and the current leader of the Group of 20 nations, as part of efforts to push back against China’s rise. Total goods traded between France and India approached $15.8 billion in 2022, up 6%.

The closeness between Moscow and Beijing has allowed Modi to position India as a partner in Asia for Paris, Washington and their allies looking to draw New Delhi into their orbit by offering weapons platforms and investments.

Macron and Modi said they’ll coordinate their policies in the Indo-Pacific region, which France sees as strategic because it hosts some 1.6 million of its citizens. Paris also has a military presence in French overseas islands there, including New Caledonia, Wallis-and-Futuna and Mayotte, with some 8,000 soldiers. Macron is planning on traveling there at the end of the month, and he’s expected to go to India in September.

Still, India has rejected Western pressure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The country has kept close ties with Moscow, which is its biggest weapons supplier, although Russia is now slowing deliveries. Last week, Modi participated in an online meeting of leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Group, which included Russian President Vladimir Putin. India also purchases oil from Russia.

An official in Macron’s office said that’s no reason to dismiss India as a partner and argued that Modi was willing to maintain ties with both Russia and Ukraine, and to help out. The French president has also sought to convince Beijing to mediate with Putin despite tensions over Taiwan.

“We share a common concern on a risk of fragmentation of the international community, especially in the context of the war led by Russia in Ukraine,” Macron said alongside Modi. “We share the same objective: A long-lasting peace, and countering the consequences this war of aggression has on the most vulnerable countries, notably in terms of food safety and funding capacities.”

Last month, India signed a flurry of defense agreements with the U.S. during Modi’s first state visit – including a project by General Electric to jointly manufacture the F414 engines used in fighter jets with state-owned Indian firm Hindustan Aeronautics. Germany’s Hindustan Aeronautics’ marine arm and India’s Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders have also signed an initial agreement to jointly build submarines for the Indian navy.

India and the U.S., along with Japan and Australia, are members of the so-called Quad grouping, seen as a counter to China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. Beijing, which has a border conflict with New Delhi, has criticized the group as a “clique” that could stoke a new Cold War.

Top French exports to India include aircraft and telecommunications equipment. Earlier this year, India’s dominant carrier, IndiGo, placed a record-breaking order with Airbus for 500 narrowbody aircraft, following an agreement by Air India to purchase 250 planes.

India already purchased 36 Rafale jets in 2015 for about €7.9 billion, and French Mirage jets in the 1980s, thus joining a “Rafale club” that includes Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In 2005, New Delhi bought six Scorpene diesel-powered submarines from Naval Group, which built them in partnership with Mazagon. The sixth submarine will be delivered next year.

Modi and Macron were due to watch a fireworks display in Paris together later Friday after a dinner at the Louvre museum with executives of Indian and French companies.



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