India and France hold talks on deepening bilateral military ties

Updated on Nov 29, 2022 01:30 AM IST

India and France on Monday discussed ways to deepen their bilateral military ties with a focus on defence industrial cooperation pivoting on the Make in India initiative, increasing the scope and complexity of exercises between their armed forces, and boosting maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, officials familiar with the matter said.

New Delhi, India - Nov. 28, 2022 : Defence Minister Rajnath Singh receives French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu prior to inspecting the Guard of Honour, at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan, in New Delhi, India, on Monday, November 28, 2022. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
New Delhi, India - Nov. 28, 2022 : Defence Minister Rajnath Singh receives French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu prior to inspecting the Guard of Honour, at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan, in New Delhi, India, on Monday, November 28, 2022. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
ByRahul Singh

India and France on Monday discussed ways to deepen their bilateral military ties with a focus on defence industrial cooperation pivoting on the Make in India initiative, increasing the scope and complexity of exercises between their armed forces, and boosting maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, officials familiar with the matter said

The 4th India-France Annual Defence Dialogue between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu was held on Monday.

A wide range of bilateral, regional, defence and defence-industrial cooperation issues were discussed, and the ministers reviewed the ongoing military-to-military cooperation which has gone up substantially in the recent years, the defence ministry said in a statement.

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“Had warm and fruitful discussions with the Defence Minister of France, Mr Sebastien Lecornu during the fourth India-France Annual Defence Dialogue in New Delhi today. A wide range of bilateral, regional & defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed during the dialogue,” Singh wrote on Twitter.

Strengthening maritime cooperation was one of the main points on the agenda, the officials said.

The Indo-Pacific region is of significance to both India and France who have made repeated calls for a free, open and rules-based order in the region amid China’s assertive behaviour in the disputed South China sea. France has been increasingly looking at strengthening its strategic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region — the country is present in the region through its overseas territories, and 93% of its exclusive economic zone is located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

“The ministers recognised their convergence 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 ministry said.

Another key area discussed was defence industrial cooperation with a focus on the government’s Make in India initiative aimed at strengthening the country’s defence manufacturing sector, cutting down import of military hardware, and tapping arms export opportunities globally.

“Future collaborations and potential co-production opportunities were discussed. The ministers agreed that the technical groups from both countries should meet early next year and take the key cooperation issues forward,” the statement said.

Increasing military-to-military cooperation by expanding the scope of bilateral exercises also came up during the dialogue. In April 2021, the navies of the Quad grouping —India, the United States, Japan and Australia — conducted complex maritime drills in the eastern Indian Ocean Region as part of French Navy-led exercise called “La Pérouse” for the first time.

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Also, in early November, the chiefs of the air forces of India and France flew fighter planes operated by each other during “Exercise Garuda VII” between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and French Air and Space Force (FASF) in Rajasthan, with the drills aimed at enhancing the interoperability between the two sides.

Lecornu had on Sunday visited the Kochi-based Southern Naval Command and also India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. India plans to buy 26 new fighters for Vikrant through a government-to-government deal to meet the navy’s requirements, with US firm Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet competing against French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M for the order.

France is one of India’s most trusted strategic partners, and both countries look forward to celebrating 25 years of their strategic partnership in 2023, the statement added.

The ministers agreed to strengthen defence cooperation in all areas “crucial for strategic autonomy and tackling our common challenges,” Emmanuel Lenain, the French ambassador to India, said on Twitter.

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