French President Emmanuel Macron will be the chief guest at India's Republic Day celebrations, underscoring the deepening ties between the two nations. The visit comes amid ongoing negotiations for significant defense deals, including the purchase of French fighter jets and submarines by the Indian military.
While the visit is expected to be ceremonial in nature, it reflects the enduring partnership between New Delhi and Paris. France has been a long-standing and reliable defense supplier to India, and notably, it refrained from imposing sanctions on India after its nuclear tests in 1998. The Indian government had previously granted initial approval to buy 26 Rafale jets and collaborate on producing three Scorpene class submarines, but finalizing these deals remains pending.
In addition to defense cooperation, France aims to expand its collaboration with India in space and nuclear sectors. This visit represents an opportunity for both countries to solidify their strategic partnership, although no new defense contracts are anticipated during this occasion.
India's reliance on French fighter jets extends back four decades, with Mirage jets from Dassault Aviation having been part of its air force for many years. The visit marks the fifth meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Macron since May, highlighting the significance of their diplomatic relationship.
Initially, India had hoped to host U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as chief guests for the Republic Day celebrations. These nations, along with India, constitute the Quad group of countries, and India had planned to hold a Quad summit this week. However, the plan fell through due to President Biden's unavailability.
During his 40-hour state visit, President Macron is set to engage with business leaders from various sectors, including pharmaceuticals, automotive, space, energy, and hydrogen industries. This engagement underscores the broader scope of economic cooperation between India and France.
While this visit may not result in immediate defense contracts, it reaffirms the strong and enduring ties between India and France and highlights the potential for further collaboration in various sectors, contributing to the growth of their strategic partnership.