France, India's closest European ally and second-largest arms supplier, aims to strengthen its 29% share of India's military hardware imports

France's President Emmanuel Macron is poised to embark on a two-day visit to India, emphasizing the deepening strategic ties between the two nations, particularly in the realm of defence. This visit solidifies France's position as India's closest European ally and its second-largest arms supplier, surpassing the United States for the first time last year.

At present, France holds a substantial 29% share of India's military hardware imports, a figure Macron aims to further bolster during his visit. The timing aligns intriguingly with Dassault's bid to supply the Indian Navy with 26 Rafale fighter jets, a potential €5.4 billion deal that could enhance France's dominance in India's air defense. This follows India's 2016 acquisition of 36 Rafale jets for €8 billion, a move aimed at reinforcing its ground forces in response to security concerns, particularly along the border with China. The new deal underscores India's continued reliance on French airpower for national security.

Beyond Defence: A Multifaceted Partnership

While defence cooperation remains a cornerstone of the India-France relationship, their partnership extends into various sectors. Collaborations in space research, civil nuclear energy, and counter-terrorism showcase the depth of their engagement. France's consistent support for India's bid for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council further solidifies its role as a dependable ally on the global stage.

Macron's visit presents an opportune moment to strengthen and diversify this multifaceted partnership. Common challenges, such as maritime security in the Indo-Pacific and counter-terrorism efforts, provide avenues for even closer collaboration. Additionally, economic engagement is likely to be a focal point, with Macron seeking greater market access for French businesses in India's thriving economy.

Despite the positive trajectory, some concerns linger over India's recent alignment with the Russia-China axis, which could complicate its relationship with Western allies, including France. Striking a delicate balance between strategic partnerships and safeguarding its own geopolitical interests poses a key challenge for India in the evolving global landscape. As Macron's visit unfolds, it is anticipated to not only fortify the existing ties but also pave the way for new avenues of cooperation, reinforcing the notion that the India-France partnership is evolving into a linchpin in the geopolitical chessboard.