Bonjour, Delhi! Macron’s Republic Day gameplan

By Sujal Shah

The winds of change are blowing in the Indo-Pacific, and France is riding alongside India. While Russia’s fragile weaponry supply network provides an opportunity, France’s objective goes far beyond providing a basic substitute. As India seeks to diversify its armaments supply base, imports from Russia fell by 47%. France accounted for 29% of imports, including US$7.2 billion agreement for 36 Rafale aircraft. The Indian Air Force is looking to upgrade its fleet of fighter jets, and buy over 100 new aircraft. There is a tender for a submarine construction contract that has gone unanswered.


In terms of strategy, President Macron is playing the long game, intending to make India the foundation of his Indo-Pacific ambitions. This vision did not emerge overnight. France has maintained connections with India since the 1990s, including during the Pokhran nuclear test, when the other countries imposed sanctions. Remember India’s Prithvi missiles’ critical navigation systems? France supplied them. This longstanding continuous support is deeply ingrained in India-France defence partnership. In 2020, India assured France that it will support Paris’ application for membership in the Indian Ocean Rim Association. India and France share a similar perspective on the Indo-Pacific. They want to keep communication sea channels open.

Countering China

To counter Beijing, New Delhi has prioritized naval cooperation between India and France, as well as similar cooperation with other like-minded regional countries. In this light, President Macron’s demand for a new maritime alliance combining France, India, and Australia might be viewed as France’s willingness to deepen its relationship with India while also opposing China’s growing influence in the region. With France’s position in the Indian Ocean Region already established through its largest Exclusive Economic Zone and island possessions, it can provide critical strategic support to reinforce India’s main role as a net security provider.

Against this backdrop, Macron’s upcoming trip to India for the 75th Republic Day parade is more than just a show of support. It’s a strong declaration of the rising stature of India in France’s strategic calculus. France decided to comprehend rather than condemn when other European countries chastised India for its neutral attitude in the Ukraine war. This implicit support demonstrates the strength of India-France friendship.

Make in India

Macron’s long-term strategy goes beyond immediate contracts. In line with India’s “Make in India” strategy, he is investing in joint ventures such as engine and submarine production. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India and the Sarfran Group of France have begun talks to design and produce fighter jet engines in India. France has also boosted its defence collaboration with India in diverse areas.  With French assistance, Bharat Dynamics Limited, an Indian missile manufacturer, has produced over 10,000 ‘Milan’ anti-tank missiles. Similarly, with French technical assistance, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited develops light helicopters such as the Chetak and the Cheetah. India may possibly leverage French nuclear technology and design to create a new class of nuclear-powered submarines in the near future.  This promotes technology development while also strengthening India’s defence autonomy, resulting in a win-win situation for both countries.

France’s future as India’s principal arms supplier is on a higher trajectory. The US continues to provide challenges, as does the ever-present Russian presence. However, with a shared history, steadfast support, and an Indo-Pacific strategic vision, France has put itself in a strong position to gain India’s trust and become a formidable partner in the region’s shifting narrative. The world will be watching as President Macron sets foot in Delhi on January 26th, as this strategic cooperation takes centre-stage in the geopolitical theatre of an uncertain world.

Author Profile

India Writes Network
India Writes Network
India Writes Network ( is an emerging think tank and a media-publishing company focused on international affairs & the India Story. Centre for Global India Insights is the research arm of India Writes Network. To subscribe to India and the World, write to A venture of TGII Media Private Limited, a leading media, publishing and consultancy company, IWN has carved a niche for balanced and exhaustive reporting and analysis of international affairs. Eminent personalities, politicians, diplomats, authors, strategy gurus and news-makers have contributed to India Writes Network, as also “India and the World,” a magazine focused on global affairs.