France–India relations

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France–India relations
Map indicating locations of France and India


Ambassador François Richier Ambassador Arun Kumar Sinha

France–India relations have traditionally been close and friendly. With the establishment of the strategic partnership in 1998, there has been a significant progress in all areas of bilateral cooperation through regular high-level exchanges at the Head of State/Head of Government levels and growing commercial exchanges including in strategic areas such as defence, nuclear energy and space. France was the first country with which India entered into an agreement on nuclear energy following the waiver given by International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group enabling India to resume full civil nuclear cooperation with the international community. There is also a growing and wide-ranging cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, culture, science & technology and education.France has consistently supported India’s permanent membership of the UNSC.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and President Hollande met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Los Cabos on 19 June 2012. This was his first meeting with the French President.

There has been a regular exchange of visits at the highest level - former French President Sarkozy undertook his second visit to India from 4–7 December 2010 (first visit on 25–26 January 2008) at the invitation of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of India was the Guest of Honour at the 14 July Bastille Day Celebrations in 2009.


Portrait of Benoît de Boigne during his service of the Maratha Empire.

In the 17th century François 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 powerplay in India. The French military adventurer, Benoît de Boigne, made his name in India under the Marathas, whom he assisted in many battles against the British East India Company.[1]

The French succeeded in the 1746 Battle of Madras, and the French and Indians fought together and vanquished Anwaruddin in 1749, but failed in the Battle of Arcot in 1751 and finally surrendered in 1752.[2] The French again had a success at the capture of Fort St. David in 1758 under Lally, but were finally defeated at Masulipatam (1759) and Wandewash (1760).[2]

France was one of the major European nations apart from Great Britain to establish colonies in India, establishing the Madras Presidency (covering the modern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu). France ceded much of the Madras Presidency to the British but retained control of Pondicherry, Karikal, Yanam, and Mahé, as well as maintaining a foothold in Chandannagar, now in West Bengal.

France established diplomatic relations with the newly independent India in 1947. Both nations negotiated the peaceful transfer of Pondicherry and the other enclaves to India, which was completed by 1954.

In 1998, the then-French President Jacques Chirac made a high-profile visit to India, expressing his desire to build an "ambitious relationship," Chirac saluted India as "a nation which has affirmed its personality on the world stage."[3] In January 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited India and was the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade.[4] Sarkozy expressed a desire to be able to visit India each year.[3] In September 2008, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a major visit to France that led to the establishment of Indo-French trade in nuclear technology.[3][5]

Development of bilateral relations[edit]

Both states have aimed to increase bilateral trade from 6.5 billion euros to 12 billion euros by 2012; in 2007, trade expanded by 26%.[3] France and India established a Consortrium of Indo-French Universities to increase educational cooperation - approximately 1,300 Indian students study in France.[3] India and France have also signed agreements on social security for Indians living in France and joint cooperation on space research and technology.[6] This resulted in the Megha-Tropiques mission wherein a meteorological research satellite jointly developed by India's Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and France's Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) was placed in orbit by ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C18) on October 12, 2011.[7]

In 2012, India launched a French satellite Spot-6 through the PSLV. Similarly, on February 25, 2013, ISRO launched SARAL, an Indo-French satellite jointly developed by ISRO and CNES. In June 2014, India launched SPOT-7, a French satellite via the Indian PSLV-C23 satellite vehicle.

Institutional Structure for dialogue[edit]

France and India have instituted a Strategic Dialogue at the level of National Security Advisors whose 24th round took place in New Delhi on September 4, 2012. The latest round of Annual Foreign Office Consultations at the level of Foreign Secretaries was held in New Delhi on June 28, 2012. The 3rd meeting of the JWG on Counter-terrorism was held in New Delhi on November 19–20, 2012. The High Level Committee for Defence Cooperation (HCDC) at the level of Defence Secretaries, met in New Delhi on 26–27 April 2012. The 11th meeting of the Indo-French Research Forum (IFRF) was held in Paris from 17–19 December 2012. The 16th session of theJoint Committee for Economic andTechnical Cooperation, at the level of Ministers of Commerce which deals with issues related to commerce and trade, was held on 23–25 June 2010 in Paris.

The Indo-French CEOs Forum, formed in 2009, has been tasked to identify new avenues for cooperation and take initiatives to facilitate business links between both countries. The fifth meeting of India France CEOs’ Forum was held in New Delhi on 22–23 November 2012.

Strategic co-operation[edit]

India has selected 126 Dassault Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force

France and India have extensive strategic co-operation, with the military services of both nations conducting joint exercises. India has purchased much military equipment from France, especially the French Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft and the Scorpène class submarines.[8] France was one of the few nations who did not condemn India's nuclear tests in 1998 and has supported India's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council as well as G-8.[3][4] France is one of the largest suppliers of nuclear fuel to India, and signed a "Framework Agreement for Civil Nuclear Co-operation" in January 2008 during French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to India.[5] During the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to France after India's waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), both nations signed an agreement that would pave the way for the sale of French-made nuclear reactors to India on September 30, 2008.[5][6] France and India also maintain a discreet "strategic dialogue" that covers joint cooperation against terrorism. However, India has objected to France's military assistance to Pakistan, with whom it is in conflict. In July 2009 the French government invited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be their chief guest at the French Bastille day celebrations. Sarkozy has also been the chief guest at India's Republic Day celebrations. Both countries pledged for closer economic, strategic & cultural cooperation on this occasion.[citation needed] During Sarkozy's visit to India in Dec 2010, a deal worth $10bn was signed between Areva and NPCIL for nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharasthra

Indo French Trade & Investment[edit]

Indo-French bilateral trade has been growing though it has still not reached the € 12 billion target set by both the Governments during the visit of the French President to India in January 2008. In 2011, bilateral trade had increased by 6% to € 7.46 billion. In the first ten months of 2012, there has been a decrease of 3.71% in the bilateral trade over the same period of 2011.

Trade in Services[edit]

Based on annual data, the Indian exports of services to France have shown a growth in the last three years reaching € 1.32 bn in 2011 while the imports from France fell to € 0.66 bn in the same year.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) approvals[edit]

France is the 9th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of approximately US$3 billion [Investment was of the order of US$2.98 billion during the period April 2000 to June 2012, which represents 2% of total inflows]. The technical and financial collaborations approved with France number 952. Top sectors attracting FDI inflows from France are Chemicals (other than fertilizers) (18.80%), Cement and Gypsum Products (15.82%), Services Sector (financial & non-financial) (9.41%), Fuels (power & oil refinery) (6.47%) & Electrical Equipments (including computer software & electronics) (5.34%) and auto sector. There are about 800 French companies in India (subsidiaries or JVs, representative offices or branch offices with about 150,000 employees).

In 2011, India was the 13th largest foreign investor in France in terms of project numbers. Indian Investments in France have been growing and Indian companies have invested around Euro 1 billion from April 1996 in different sectors like pharmaceuticals (Ranbaxy and Wockhardt), Software (Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys & Wipro), Wine (Kingfisher), Steel (Tata, Electrosteel), Plastics (Sintex). Railway wagons (Titagarh Wagons), Aerospace (Cades/Axis) & Autoparts (Jyoti) etc.110 Indian-owned companies, including 27 greenfield investments, are present in France and are employing over 5,600 persons.

Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation[edit]

A landmark Framework Agreement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was signed between India and France on 30 September 2008 during the visit of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to France. Subsequently, during the visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy to India from 4–7 December 2010, the General Framework Agreement and the Early Works Agreement between NPCIL and Areva for implementation of EPR NPP Units at Jaitapur were signed.

Space Cooperation[edit]

France and India view each other as important partners in space technology and applications. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its French counterpart Centre National de Etudes Spatiales (CNES) have a rich history of cooperation and collaboration spanning about four decades. Scientific community of these two nations cooperates in joint radiation experiment, space components development and space education. ISRO and CNES (French National Space Agency) have an umbrella agreement, operating successfully since 1993, under which joint missions like Megha-Tropiques and SARAL have been taken up. Under a commercial Launch Service Agreement between Antrix Corporation Limited (ANTRIX), the commercial arm of ISRO and ASTRIUM SAS, a Company under EADS, France, an advanced Remote Sensing satellite - SPOT -6 built by ASTRIUM. SAS was successfully launched on-board ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV – C21) on 9 September 2012.Arianespace based at France has been the major provider of launch services to Indian Geo-Stationary satellites. Subsequent to the launch of APPLE satellite on a co-operative mode, 14 Geo-Stationary satellites of India have been launched by Ariane on a commercial basis. On 28 September 2012, India’s GSAT-10 was successfully launched onboard Ariane 5 launcher from Kourou, French Guyana.

Defence Cooperation[edit]

A 400-strong contingent of the Indian armed forces led the Bastille Day parade in 2009 for which the Prime Minister of India was the Guest of Honour - the first time ever that Indian troops took part in another country’s national day parade. Under the framework of the structured talks under the Indo-French Defence Cooperation Agreement several meetings on industrial collaboration and service exchanges are held regularly. The High Level Committee for Defence Cooperation (HCDC) at the level of Defence Secretaries, met in New Delhi on 26–27 April 2012. The 11th meeting of the Indo-French Research Forum (IFRF) was held in Paris from 17–19 December 2012. The 16th session of the Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation, at the level of Ministers of Commerce which deals with issues related to commerce and trade, was held on 23–25 June 2010 in Paris. Indo-French Air Force Exercise Garuda IV was held at Istres air base in France from 14–25 June 2010. Indo - French Naval Exercise, Varuna was held in the Mediterranean sea off the port of Toulon from 19–22 July 2012. The first IndiaFrance joint army exercise named Shakti was conducted in India at Chaubattia from 9–22 October 2011. Government of India has selected Rafale from Dassault Aviation, France for procurement of 126 MMRCA for the Indian Air Force.Contract negotiations are currently ongoing.

Cultural exchanges[edit]

Indian culture enjoys a wide and discerning audience among the French population, as is evident in the numerous and frequent cultural events organized all over France, spanning the entire gamut of Indian art, music, dance, cinema and literature. While the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) sponsors visits of Indian artists to France as also exchange of students in the field of culture and art, there is a growing number of private impresarios who organize cultural events throughout France. A significant number of Indian artists are therefore giving performances in France regularly on a commercial basis or at the initiative of the various local cultural associations outside the purview of the official exchanges. The Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) provides the overall umbrella for the organization of a variety of cultural programmes. The last (16th) session of the Joint Commission on Culture which reviews the CEP was held on 29 September 2009, in New Delhi.

Namaste France[edit]

The 15-month long Indian cultural festival- “Namaste France" was held from 14 April 2010 to 28 June 2011. It was successful in terms of putting India on the cultural radar of France. ‘Namaste France’ was a comprehensive presentation of Indian culture including art, music, dance, fashion, tourism, films, and literature as also business and education in both its traditional and contemporary forms. The Namaste France Festival was organized in response to ‘Bonjour India’ a similar French cultural festival, organized by the French Embassy in India in 2009-2010. During the visit of Hon’ble Minister of Culture, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Kumari Selja to Paris to inaugurate the exhibition ‘The Last Harvest – Paintings of Tagore at the prestigious Petit Palais museum from 26 January to March 11, 2012, a Declaration of Intent was signed with her French counterpart for further reinforcing cultural cooperation on 26th January 2012. On the same day, a MOU was signed between the Ministry of Culture of India and the Louvre Museum with the aim of establishing an active partnership in the area of exchange of competencies and expertise, particularly in the field of museology, temporary exhibitions and other cultural events. The 2012 Cannes Film Festival was important for India. For the first time, four Indian films were selected for screening in different categories of the festival namely “Miss Lovely”, “Kalpana”, “Peddlers” and “Gangs of Wasseypur”. India is going to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema in 2013. The Cannes Festival (15–26 May 2013), the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema (Festival international des cinémas d'Asie) from 5–12 February 2013, and the 35th International Short Film Festival of Clermont-Ferrand (1–9 February 2013) have confirmed India as a ‘Country of Honour’ in 2013 to celebrate the Centenary of the Indian Film Industry.

Educational and Technical Cooperation[edit]

The bilateral educational cooperation between India and France has grown over the last few years. Around 300 MoUs have been signed between Indian and French universities and private institutions. The number of Indian students studying in France in various fields has increased over the years. For the academic year 2011-2012, 2550 Indian students came to France. The framework for bilateral educational cooperation is provided by the Educational Exchange Programme (EEP), which includes mutual recognition of degrees, bolstering the research programme and increasing student-scholar research mobility through a flexible visa regime was signed in 2007 by Joint Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development and Secretary, Cooperation and Culture, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). A Joint Working Group has also been set up under the EEP. One of the most important initiatives in the field of education has been the cooperation on the new IIT in Rajasthan,following a joint declaration in 2008. A Letter of Intent (LOI) has been signed in 2012. The Indo-French Centre for Promotion of Advanced Research (CEFIPRA) is the nodal framework for promoting bilateral scientific cooperation in fundamental and applied research, frontier technologies and exchange of scientists and post doctoral researchers. The office of CEFIPRA has been established in Delhi and the centre is currently funded through an annual corpus of € 3 million with India and France equally contributing € 1.5 million each. CEFIPRA completes 25 years in 2012. The 25th Anniversary Celebrations of CEFIPRA were formally launched in a programme organized in New Delhi on 6 March 2012. As part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations, a number of programmes have been envisaged; these include holding of seminars, organizing science quiz in schools and screening of documentary films. The French authorities have provided land for extending the Maison de l‘Inde, which will contribute to augmenting accommodation facilities for Indian students in France.

Indian Community in France[edit]

The Indian community including NRIs in France is estimated to be around 70,000, largely originating from Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Chandranagar. There are also large communities of PIOs in the Reunion Island (about 230,000), Guadeloupe (about 57,000), Martinique (about 5,000) and St. Martin (about 3,600-French and Dutch sides), the overseas territories/departments of France.

See also[edit]


  1. ^,_Beno%C3%AEt_de
  2. ^ a b Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare, p.160
  3. ^ a b c d e f "India-France relations set to move into high gear". 2008-09-27. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  4. ^ a b "Sarkozy witnesses Indian military mightgear". France24. 2008-01-26. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  5. ^ a b c "India and France in nuclear deal". BBC News. 2008-09-30. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  6. ^ a b "India, France ink landmark nuclear deal". 2008-09-30. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  7. ^ ISRO: PSLV C-18
  8. ^ "India, France Discuss Submarine, Mirage Deals". Arab News. 2003-04-29. Retrieved 2008-10-08.