India-France Defense Ties:- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a grand welcome during his visit to France on Bastille Day. As the guest of honor at the Bastille Day military parade, Modi witnessed French and Indian soldiers marching down the renowned Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris. Adding to the spectacle, the Rafale fighter jets that India had purchased in 2015 participated in a fly-past over the iconic Arc de Triomphe.
This visit comes at a crucial time for French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been facing challenges and protests due to his decision to increase the retirement age. However, Modi’s visit has strengthened the ties between the two countries, as he was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award.
In his speech honoring India, Macron referred to the country as a “giant in the history of the world,” emphasizing its significance in shaping the future. He also acknowledged India’s strategic partnership and friendship with France, highlighting the importance of this alliance.
The military parade marks another milestone in the defense ties between France and India. New Delhi recently approved the purchase of an additional 26 Rafale jets and three Scorpene class submarines, further deepening their defense cooperation. The total value of these purchases is expected to be around 800 billion rupees ($9.75 billion), subject to negotiations.
France has been a trusted partner of India in Europe for several decades. Notably, it was the only Western nation that did not impose sanctions on India after the country conducted nuclear tests in 1998.
India has relied on French fighter jets for over four decades. Prior to acquiring Rafale jets, India purchased Mirage jets in the 1980s, and they still constitute two squadrons of the Indian Air Force. Due to the aging fleet of Russian-made planes, maintenance difficulties, and delays in indigenous manufacturing, India pursued these new defense deals with France.
Apart from the military parade, Modi’s visit included talks with Macron at the Elysee Palace, followed by a state banquet at the Louvre Museum. However, his visit received criticism from human rights organizations concerned about the increasing authoritarian nature of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as allegations of discrimination against minorities.
The strategic partnership between France and India is crucial, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. Both countries, through their island territories, have significant interests in the Indian Ocean and share concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Macron has extended the invitation to attend the Bastille Day military parade to only a few global leaders. In 2017, former U.S. President Donald Trump was the honored guest, and he was so impressed by the French march-past that he requested exploring a similar parade to celebrate American troops.
Overall, Modi’s visit to France has further strengthened the defense ties between the two nations. It symbolizes the strategic partnership and friendship between India and France, highlighting their shared interests and concerns in the Indo-Pacific region. Despite criticisms, this visit serves as a testament to their commitment to bilateral cooperation and the continued growth of their alliance.