Issue Brief on “Modi Visits France: Diversifying Options and Impact on South Asia”

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At the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited France from July 13-14, 2023. He was invited to attend the Bastille Day celebrations, also known as the French National Day. This year was significant for Paris and New Delhi as they marked the 25th anniversary of France-India strategic partnership. During the visit, the two sides adopted a roadmap to ramp up relations till 2047 as emphasized in the joint statement issued at the end of the visit.[1] The statement stressed reinforcing their respective sovereignty and particularly decision-making autonomy. Among other things, this showed that India wished to project itself as a resilient global player, despite its fragile socio-political structure at home. The Indian Prime Minister’s visit to France was significant owing to the type of deals concluded and their impact on regional stability in South Asia. It is also important to assess how India has diversified its military partnerships.

Marine Rafale

Ahead of PM Modi’s visit to India, the Indian Defence Ministry approved a decision to purchase 26 Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets, as well as four trainers and three Scorpene-class submarines. These Rafale jets are the marine version of the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft India bought earlier. Once the 26 marine Rafale join the Indian Naval fleet, they will augment the capabilities of the Indian Navy and complement the Rafale bought by the Indian Air Force. Like France, India has chosen to operate two versions of the same aircraft over land and sea. This will allow interoperability and support in-depth strikes over land and anti-ship strikes over the sea. Due to Meteor-beyond visual range air-to-air missiles and the capability of carrying exceptionally heavy payloads, these aircraft could be used as part of a nuclear deterrent in South Asia, especially against Pakistan. Additionally, the marine version of the Rafale has been modified to allow landing on an aircraft carrier.[2] This new purchase is expected to complement India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, commissioned last year.[3]

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