by Rupal Kalebere
The bilateral relationship between India and France has reached new heights with the recent release of the revised joint statement titled “Horizon 2047: 25th Anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership, Towards A Century of India-France Relations.” This document outlines the roadmap for the comprehensive and enduring partnership between the two nations until 2047. While the new version of the joint statement omits specific details regarding defence deals, it underscores the commitment to defence cooperation, as well as the significant strides made in the space sector.
Enhancing Technological Advancements and ‘Make in India’ Initiatives
The joint statement emphasizes the continued and strengthened defence cooperation between India and France. One notable achievement highlighted is the successful collaboration in military aviation, specifically the timely delivery of 36 Rafale fighter jets to India. Looking ahead, both countries aim to deepen their defence partnership through joint initiatives such as the development of a combat aircraft engine. The joint statement underlines the shareholders’ agreement between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Safran Helicopter Engine, France, for engine development as part of India’s Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) program.
The joint statement also recognizes the success of the Scorpene submarine construction program (P75 – Kalvari), serving as a model for India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. This program showcases the exchange of naval expertise between Indian and French companies. Additionally, both nations express interest in exploring more ambitious projects to enhance the Indian submarine fleet’s capabilities.
Furthermore, the defence industrial partnership extends beyond aviation and naval sectors, encompassing collaborations in technology transfer. Notably, the agreement between Safran Helicopter Engine and HAL for the Transfer of Technology of Forging and Castings for the Shakti Engine exemplifies France’s commitment to supporting India’s ‘Make in India’ initiatives. The joint statement also mentions the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd. (GRSE) and Naval Group France, representing cooperation in the field of surface ships.
To facilitate and enhance these partnerships, India is establishing a Technical Office of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at its Embassy in Paris. This move underscores the commitment to fostering technological advancements and cooperation in the defence sector.
Expanding Frontiers and Ensuring Access to Space
The joint statement highlights the decision of India and France to enhance their cooperation in the space sector, acknowledging the significance of space technologies, access to space, and the development of services and applications utilizing space data. The partnership between the French space agency, CNES, and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be strengthened in various areas.
In the field of climate and environment, the joint focus will be on the TRISHNA mission and activities within the Space Climate Observatory (SCO). These initiatives will concentrate on crucial topics such as water resource management, marine resources, and air quality monitoring. Collaboration will also extend to space exploration missions to Mars and Venus, maritime monitoring, launchers, and manned flights, aligning with India’s Gaganyaan program.
In terms of commercial space activities, the collaboration between New Space India Limited (NSIL) and Arianespace highlights cooperation in commercial launch services. This partnership reflects the intention to jointly explore the commercial aspect of space missions. Additionally, both countries prioritize the resilience of access to space by working together to strengthen synergies in terms of sovereign access to space. The emphasis on developing forward-looking technologies acknowledges the importance of reliable and secure access to space for various applications.
The revised joint statement between India and France highlights the enduring and strengthened strategic partnership between the two countries. While specific details related to defence deals were omitted in the new version, it is evident that defence cooperation remains a crucial aspect of the relationship. Both nations are committed to jointly developing advanced technologies, supporting ‘Make in India’ initiatives, and enhancing the Indian defence sector’s capabilities.
The joint statement also underscores the significant strides made in space cooperation, with a focus on leveraging space technologies, ensuring access to space, and collaborating in various space missions and applications. This comprehensive approach to space cooperation further solidifies the long-term commitment between India and France.
The roadmap outlined in the joint statement demonstrates the shared vision and determination to strengthen ties between India and France in defence and space sectors. By working together, both countries are poised to advance technologically, foster innovation, and address common challenges, ensuring a prosperous and secure future for their strategic partnership.
The partnership has endured over time and now can be the anchor for a larger and more strategic engagement between the two countries in the defence and space domain that would now grown beyond a buyer-seller relationship to one of joint partnering and production of hi-tech equipment and platforms – hopefully for both domestic and export destinations.