By visiting India at a short notice for its Republic Day function, French President Macron has indicated that he gives priority to consolidation of India-France relations
As French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in India on Thursday to attend the country’s 75th Republic Day celebrations on Friday as the Chief Guest, Paris has injected a fresh dynamism and charm in its bilateral relations with India at the time when global geopolitical situation is witnessing challenges on account of the Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
French President Macron earlier visited India twice: First, on a bilateral visit in 2018 and second, for the G20 Summit in September 2023. This time he arrived in India on a short notice. While this showed, as per former Indian envoy to France, Dr Mohan Kumar, President Macron’s “unconditional commitment” to strategic partnership with India, it also showed his keenness to take the bilateral ties between the two countries to a new height.
Significantly, the French President’s visit took place close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris on July 13-14 for the Bastille Day parade. This indicates how strong is the friendship between India and France.
A True Friend   
French President Macron’s visit has taken place when the two countries are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their strategic partnership, which is avowedly soaked in deep trust and unfathomable mutual understanding. India was the first non-European country with which France had signed a strategic partnership in 1998.
In India’s diplomatic and strategic calendar, the year 1998 assumes high significance as France stood by it when other nations, including the US imposed sanctions on it following nuclear detonations in Pokhran in Rajasthan. France has also stood by India on Jammu and Kashmir at the UN Security Council. Its support for India against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism or permanent membership of the UNSC is well known.
It does not shy away from building India’s defence ecosystem. To a larger extent, it has been France whose critical support helped India in joining critical nuclear non-proliferation regimes such as the Missile Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.
Trusted Partnership
India and France work together for international peace and security. They have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. In their “Horizon 2047” statement issued during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France in July 2023, both countries agreed to work within the framework of a partnership between equals, in consonance with their respective sovereign and strategic interests.
They also decided to strengthen cooperation in the sector of the future, “so as to reinforce their sovereignty and decision-making autonomy, and to respond together to the major challenges confronting our planet, including through the cooperation between India and the European Union.”  The Horizon 2047 statement which, in fact, presents a roadmap for the next quarter-century of bilateral partnership between India and France, takes into account economic engagement, identification of joint initiatives in the areas of renewable energy, green hydrogen, artificial intelligence, semiconductors, cyber, digital technology, tie-ups in the start-up and innovation sectors, supply chains and others.
Defence Partnership
Since India is focused on co-production and co-development of defence equipment and platforms under its “atmanirbharata” (self-reliance) goals, New Delhi and Paris are working on initiatives that could boost their bilateral defence cooperation mechanism and strengthen their ongoing defence engagements.
During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France in July, both countries agreed for the joint development of a combat aircraft engine, industrial cooperation for the motorisation of heavy-lift helicopters under the Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) programme with Safran Helicopter Engine.
A contract was signed between Safran Helicopter Engine and HAL for the transfer of technology for forging and castings of the Shakti engine, while an MoU was signed between Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE) and Naval Group, France to collaborate in the field of surface ships with an aim to fulfil the requirement of India and international naval forces. Both countries also agreed to work towards adopting a roadmap on defence industrial cooperation.
India has already announced its decision to acquire 26 Rafales (naval version) for its new aircraft carrier and the construction of three additional Scorpene submarines by Mazagaon Dock in collaboration with Naval Group, France.
Cooperation in Space
Cooperation between India and France in the space sector is strengthening with the passage of time. During PM Modi’s visit last year, India and France decided to deepen their cooperation in all areas of the space sector by strengthening their programmes of common interests including, scientific and commercial partnership
France’s CNES and India’s ISRO agreed to strengthen their partnership around two structuring axes: climate and environment, with the development of the TRISHNA mission and activities within the Space Climate Observatory (SCO) on topics such as water resource management, marine resources and air quality monitoring; space exploration (Mars, Venus), maritime monitoring, launchers and manned flights in connection with India’s Gaganyaan programme.
Cooperation on Terrorism

It was agreed during PM Modi’s visit that India and France would strengthen cooperation on all aspects in order to stay ahead of the evolving threat. This would include operational cooperation, multilateral action, countering online radicalisation and combating financing of terrorism, particularly through the No Money for Terror (NMFT) initiative and the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremism Content Online.

India and France are already deepening their cooperation on internal security and the fight against transnational organized crime, including human trafficking, financial crime and environmental crime. They are working towards the formalisation of cooperation between the National Security Guard (NSG) of India and the Groupe d'intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale (GIGN) of France through the Letter of Intent between India and France for cooperation in the field of counterterrorism.

It is expected that during French President Macron’s two-day (January 25-26) visit, not only diplomatic and economic engagements, but also the ongoing cooperation in the field of space, strategy and defence will receive a significant boost.