4th India-France Annual Defence Dialogue

    0
    269

    In News

    • Recently, India and France discussed defence industrial cooperation with a focus on ‘Make in India’.

    Key Points

    • About: 
      • It was the 4th India-France annual defence dialogue chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his visiting French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu.
    • Background: 
      • It comes in a year that has seen an acceleration of the French and Indian armed forces’ endeavours towards even greater interoperability through joint air, navy, and army exercises, such as IMEX 22 in March, Varuna in March-April, and the recently-concluded Garuda in October-November 2022.
    • Focus: 
      • Make in India
      • Means to strengthen maritime cooperation and 
      • Increase the scope and complexity of bilateral exercises. 
    • Minutes and future projects: 
      • Future collaborations and potential co-production opportunities were discussed. 
      • The technical groups from both the countries will meet early next year and take the key cooperation issues forward
      • A wide range of bilateral, regional and defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed during the dialogue.
      • Reviewed the ongoing military-to-military cooperation, which has increased substantially in recent years.
      • They recognised their convergences on a number of “strategic and defence issues and shared the commitment to work together on enhancing cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
      • The discussions ranged from enhancing cooperation in areas of mutual interest to the maritime challenges in the Indian Ocean Region.
    • France: 
      • France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and both countries cooperate closely in these fora.
      • The French Minister acknowledged India’s indigenous potential and self-reliance. 

    India France Relations

    • Strategic Dialogue:
      • France is the first country with which we initiated a Strategic Dialogue after our 1998 nuclear tests when France refused to impose bilateral sanctions on us and displayed a far greater understanding of India’s security compulsions compared to other countries.
    • Trade between two countries:
      • Bilateral trade with France has witnessed a steady rise in the last decade reaching USD 10.75 billion in 2020. The two sides also recognised the importance of fast tracking the discussions on an India-EU trade and investment agreement.
      • Nearly $16 billion worth of agreements at the business summit were signed. There are nearly 1,000 French companies present while over a hundred Indian businesses have established a presence in France.
    • Brexit: 
      • In the past, Indian companies saw the U.K. as the entry point for Europe; now with Brexit approaching, India can also look at France as its entry point for Europe.
    • Defence:
      • An agreement for building six Scorpène submarines in India with French help was signed in 2005.
      • Technology sharing and acquisitions of short-range missiles and radar equipment were concluded.
      • Joint exercises between the air forces (Garuda series) and the armies (Shakti) were instituted in 2003 and 2011, respectively.
      • The government-to-government agreement for 36 Rafale aircrafts has taken place. The ambitious offset target of 50% (nearly Rs.25,000 crore), properly implemented, can help in building up India’s budding aerospace industry.
    • Energy Sector:
      • An agreement was signed about a decade ago for building six EPR (European Pressurized Reactors) nuclear power reactors with a total capacity of 9.6 GW for which negotiations have been on-going between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Areva.
      • On green energy: 
        • The International Solar Alliance is set in motion jointly by India and France.
        • France offered an extra $861.5 million by 2022 for solar projects in developing countries.
    • Maritime cooperation:
      • China’s angle: 
        • Like India, France has expressed concern about China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
        • French overseas territories in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans provide it with the second-largest exclusive economic zone globally. It has long maintained bases in Reunion Islands and Djibouti and established one in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
      • Strengthening cooperation with France, particularly in the western Indian Ocean Region makes eminent strategic sense even as India develops its presence in Oman (Duqm) and Seychelles (Assumption Island).
      • More synergy between the two navies in the Gulf area where France has a base (in Abu Dhabi) and better mutual understanding of the implications of a Chinese base in Gwadar is important for India.
    • Space:
      • Earlier France assisted India to set up the Sriharikota launch site.
      • Today, it is a relationship of near equals and the ‘vision statement’ refers to world-class joint missions for space situational awareness, high resolution earth observation missions with applications in meteorology, oceanography and cartography.
      • Inter-planetary exploration and space transportation systems are cutting edge science and technology areas that have also been identified.
      • Collaboration for Mission Gaganyaan: 
        • Space agencies of India and France inked an agreement for cooperation for the country’s first human space mission Gaganyaan. 
    • Education:
      • The most significant agreement was the focus on youth and student exchanges.
      • Currently, about 2,500 Indians go to France annually to pursue higher education, compared to more than 250,000 from China.
      • The agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees and the follow-on Knowledge Summit, where 14 MoUs between educational and scientific institutions were signed.
    • Tourism:
      • While there are only about 20 flights a week between India and France, there are four times as many to Germany and 10 times as many to the U.K. So the number of flights between India and France have to be increased.
    • Post-COVID Agenda: 
      • India and France will advance their shared post-COVID agenda through “close collaboration”. 
      • There are immense opportunities for greater collaboration in diverse sectors such as trade and investments, defence and security, health, education, research and innovation, energy and climate change.
    • Environment: 
      • India and France had launched the Indo-French Year of the Environment in January 2021 to strengthen cooperation on these issues and ensure coordination ahead of these multilateral events.
        • Objective: To strengthen Indo-French cooperation in sustainable development, increase the effectiveness of actions in favour of global environment protection and give them greater visibility.
        • The Indo-French Year of the Environment over the period 2021-2022 would be based on five main themes: 
          • Environmental protection;
          • Climate change;
          • Biodiversity conservation
          • Sustainable urban development;
          • Development of renewable energies and energy efficiency.
        • It is also a platform for engaging in discussions on critical areas of collaboration relating to the environment and allied areas.

    Conclusion

    • This visit reaffirms France’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific and India’s centrality in the French strategy for the region.

    Source: TH