India France relations : Frontier IAS
Baljit Dhaka
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India France relations : Frontier IAS

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India France relations I all dimensions: Frontier IAS

In this article, we will discuss India's France relations in detail on various dimensions. 

  • India France ancient link (British Era, Mughal Era)
  • India France Geopolitics
  • India France Strategic Partnership
  • Defence cooperation
  • Space cooperation 
  • Civil nuclear cooperation
  • S&T and Education Cooperation
  • Economic Cooperation
  • cultural cooperation
  • Consular Issues

In UPSC mains GS Paper 2, this article is very important. Check here syllabus 

Have a view on the map where is France so that one can understand properly. 

India France relations

   India France Ancient link

  • France–India relations have traditionally been close and friendly and both countries have a 'special relationship' with each other. Both nations have a centuries-old history of trade relations.
  • From the 17th century until 1954, France maintained a colonial presence in the subcontinent; Puducherry, one of its former Indian territories, is a popular tourism destination for French travellers to India.
  • In the 17th century Francois Bernier (1625–1688), a French physician and traveler became for 12 years the personal physician of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. In the 18th century, France was actively involved in the European colonial powerplay in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The French General Dupleix was allied to Murzaphar Jung in the Deccan, and Chanda Sahib in the Carnatic Wars, in the conflict against Robert Clive of the East India Company. 
  • The French succeeded in the 1746 Battle of Madras but failed in the Battle of Arcot in 1751 and finally surrendered in 1752. The French again had a success at the capture of Fort St David in 1758 under Lally, but were finally defeated at Machilipatnam (1759) and Vandavasi (1760). 
  • French had lost pre-eminence in India with the Treaty of Paris (1763), although five trading posts were being maintained there, leaving opportunities for disputes and power-play with Great Britain. 
  • France was successful in supporting the American War of Independence in 1776, and wished to expel the British from India as well.
  • While Great Britain established its authority over the Madras Presidency (covering the modern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu), France retained control of Pondicherry, Karikal, Yanam, and Mahé, as well as maintaining a foothold in Chandannagar, now in West Bengal. 
  • During the British Raj, many Indian freedom fighters (Subramania Bharati, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sri Aurobindo) sought refuge in French establishments in India to stay out of reach of the British.

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India France geopolitics

  • India and France share a common trait of civilisational exceptionalism, and after the Cold War ended, both countries were quick to espouse the virtues of multipolarity. 
  • Visualising the changing geopolitics with focus shifting from Euro-Atlantic to Asia-Pacific, France decided on India as its preferred partner in the Indian Ocean. 
  • Even before India’s nuclear tests in 1998, France declared that the nation’s exclusion from the global nuclear order was an anomaly, and that needed rectification.
  • After the nuclear tests, France displayed an instinctual understanding of India’s security compulsions. 
  • The strategic dialogue that began in 1998 has grown over the years to cover nuclear, space, defence, cyber security, intelligence-sharing and counter-terrorism cooperation. 


India France Strategic Partnership

India and France have traditionally close and friendly relations. In 1998, the two countries entered into Strategic Partnership which is emblematic of their convergence of views on a range of international issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship. 

Principle Pillars of Strategic Partnership:

  • Defence cooperation
  • Space cooperation 
  • Civil nuclear cooperation 

Apart from these traditional fields of cooperation, India and France are increasingly engaged in new areas of cooperation like 

  • Climate change
  • Sustainable growth and development, 
  • International Solar Alliance etc.


Defence Cooperation :

  • Regular exchange of visits at the level of Services Chiefs takes place. 
  • The three services also have regular defence exercises; viz. Exercise Shakti (Army), Exercise Varuna (Navy), Exercise Garuda (Air Force).
  • Apart from service-level staff talks, the two sides have a High Committee on Defence Cooperation (HCDC) which meets annually at the level of Defence Secretary and the French Director General of the Directorate of International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS).
  • Apart from this, various staff courses, training programmes etc. also regularly take place.
  • Major on-going defence-related projects are the following:  Rafale deal, P-75 Scorpene Project

Space Cooperation :

  • India and France have a rich history of cooperation in the field of space going back to fifty years with ISRO and the French Space Agency, CNES carrying on various joint research programmes and launch of satellites.
  • France continues to be a major supplier of components and equipment for the Indian space programme. 
  • Building on the historical linkages in the arena of civilian space, both India and France issued a “Joint Vision for Space Cooperation” during the visit of President Macron to India (March 2018). The Joint Vision spells out the concrete areas of future cooperation in this field. 
  • ISRO and CNES will realize their third joint satellite mission – TRISHNA which is meant for eco-system stress and water use monitoring as also accommodation of a French instrument of India’s OCEANSAT – 3 satellite. 
  • GSAT-18 was launched from Arianespace, Kourou on 5 October 2016 which was the twentieth ISRO satellite launched by Arianespace. 
  • GSAT-17 was launched from Kourou on 28 June 2017. 

Civil Nuclear Cooperation :

  • A landmark agreement on civil nuclear cooperation was signed between India and France on 30 September 2008 
  • Subsequently, during the visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy to India in December 2010, the General Framework Agreement and the Early Works Agreement between NPCIL and M/s AREVA for the implementation of EPR for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) were signed. 
  • During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France in April 2015, M/s L&T and M/s AREVA signed an MoU to maximize localisation for manufacturing of critical and large forgings involved in EPR technology for JNPP (including Reactor Pressure Vessel) and M/s AREVA and NPCIL signed a pre-engineering agreement. 
  • After the US cut off nuclear fuel supplies for Tarapur in 1984, France became the fuel supplier. Following the Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver in 2008, India and France signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement providing the framework for building the French Extended producer responsibility reactors in India.

S&T and Education 

  • In the field of S&T, the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advance Research (CEFIPRA) based in New Delhi established in 1987 is playing a major role by funding joint proposals for research in sciences and evaluation existing research projects. 
  • Several other bilateral cooperation programmes exist including an Indo French Ministerial-level Joint Committee on Science and Technology, established in 2016, whose first meeting was held in New Delhi in June 2018.
  • It is estimated that there are about 10000 Indian students in France. Encouraged by offer of courses in English medium in the French institutes of higher education, especially in the field of business management, about 3,000 new Indian students come to France every year. 
  • During the visit of Hon’ble PM to Chantilly (Aug 2019), the two sides encouraged their respective Universities and academic institutes to increase the number and quality of student exchanges with the aim of reaching the number of 25,000 students by 2025. 
  • During this visit, an Administrative Arrangement was also signed for Cooperation in skill Development and Vocational Training.

Seven bilateral joint working groups in various fields exist which are: 

  • IT & Telecommunications
  • Roads
  • Sustainable Urban Development
  • Agriculture and Food Processing
  • Mineral Exploration and Development
  • Energy
  • Post

Economic Cooperation

  • Both India and France have important bilateral investments & trade and commercial cooperation. 
  • France has emerged as a major source of FDI for India with more than 1,000 French establishments already present in India with a total turnover of US $ 20 billion and employing around 300,000 persons.
  • France is the 9th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of USD 6.59 billion from April 2000 to December 2018. 
  • There are more than 150 Indian companies operating in France (including sub-subsidiaries), employing more than 7,000 persons. 
  • Almost all the major French companies are present in India including Renault, Saint Gobain, Veolia, Michelin, Capgemini, Sanofi, EDF, Airbus, Lactalis, Sodexho, Total and others. 
  • India’s Reliance, Tata, Mahindra, L&T and other big companies have tied up joint cooperation with major French companies like Dassault, SAFRAN, Thales, Schneider Electric and others in the defence and electronics sector.
  • French infrastructure companies are looking forward to major opportunities in Indian projects including in smart cities and renewable energy. 
  • The French side has been actively cooperating with various programmes in especially three Smart Cities, viz. Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry.
  • SNCF, the French railways and the Indian Railways have established a Permanent Indo-French Railway Forum. 
  • They have been cooperating in the studies for the feasibility of semi-high speed upgrade of Delhi-Chandigarh section and station development study of Ambala and Ludhiana.

Cultural Cooperation :

  • Indian culture enjoys wide admiration among the people of France. 
  • An Indian Cultural Centre, named Vivekananda Cultural Centre, is being opened in Paris.
  • The International Day of Yoga has been organized by the Embassy of India in Paris and other cities of France since 2016 and have received wide acclaim and press coverage. 
  • Year long celebrations have also been organized to commemorate 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, 550th Birth Anniversary of Shri Gurunanak Devji and the 70th Year of the Constitution of India. 
  • A Cultural Exchange Programme, initially for the period 2016 to 2018, continues and is under implementation. 
  • GoI has also offered five scholarships for study of Sanskrit in India to French nationals. Various other bilateral programmes of cultural cooperation are under implementation. 
  • As decided during the visit of President Hollande to India in January 2016, ICCR presented the Namaste France cultural festival in France from 15 September to 30 November 2016. The festival brought home to the French audience various manifestations of Indian culture including classical and contemporary dances and music, exhibitions, seminars, food, fashion, films etc. 
  • The festival saw more than 80 events presented in more than 40 cities in France and proved to be a great success.
  • GoI has also offered five scholarships for study of Sanskrit in India to French nationals. Various other bilateral programmes of cultural cooperation are under implementation. 
  • Cooperation in the fields of S&T and Education 
  • In the field of S&T, the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advance Research (CEFIPRA) based in New Delhi established in 1987 is playing a major role by funding joint proposals for research in sciences and evaluation existing research projects. 
  • Joint Indo-French research projects funded by CEFIPRA have led to several patents. Several other bilateral cooperation programmes exists including the establishment of an Indo-French Ministerial-level Joint Committee on Science and Technology as decided during the visit of President Hollande to India. 
  • It is estimated that there are about 5000 Indian students in France. 
  • Encouraged by offer of courses in English medium in the French institutes of higher education, especially in the field of business management, about 3000 new Indian students come to France every year. 
  • There are more than 50 Indian community organisations active in France.
  •  Major communities constituting the Indian origin population originate from Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Punjab. 

Consular issues

Bilateral consular relations are guided by the following four agreements:

  • India-France Extradition Treaty (August 2005)
  • India-France Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in Criminal Matters (10 October 2005)
  • India-France Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (January 2008) 
  • India-France agreement on exemption of visa requirements for diplomats (October 2013)


India and France have committed to take forward their decisions on Bilateral Partnership Agreement on Migration and Mobility with a view to conclude them as soon as possible.