The India–France relationship has gained significant strategic salience in the recent past. There is a natural convergence between New Delhi and Paris’s vision of the Indo–Pacific and the larger Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Apart from maritime security, bilateral cooperation between the two nations spans a wide range of areas, including defense, energy, and climate change. 

Carnegie India hosted French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler for a private roundtable discussion to explore avenues for furthering cooperation between India and France. Mohan Kumar, chairman of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), was a discussant and Rudra Chaudhuri, director of Carnegie India, moderated the discussion.

Discussion Highlights

  • Indo–French Cooperation: The participants agreed that, in recent years, there has been greater political emphasis on the India–France relationship at the highest level. They noted that key areas of cooperation between the two include defense, civilian nuclear energy, and outer space. On defense, while emphasizing the importance of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, participants noted that the predictability of business is an important consideration. Participants also drew attention to the growing Indian student population in France and noted that India’s young population provides an opportunity to further expand cooperation in this domain. India and France should also have a frank conversation about their respective relationships with China, they added. Participants also discussed the growing salience of data regulation. They argued for the need to initiate conversations on how India can achieve a “data secure” status, according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to do business with the European Union (EU) and its member states. As India debates its own data privacy policy, participants noted the importance of protecting data sovereignty.
  • India–EU Relationship: Participants emphasized that the India–France relationship feeds into stronger India–EU relations. They highlighted that the EU is deeply interested in Asia and India. Participants added that, with the recent elections, there is a new leadership in Brussels and stronger leadership in New Delhi. This provides the opportunity to clarify priorities and take a fresh look at trade issues between both sides. They highlighted that Indian exporters are at a disadvantage unless both sides conclude a Free Trade Agreement, given the nature of the global trade architecture. Participants emphasized that, within the EU, France needs to do a lot of heavy lifting to ensure greater India–EU cooperation in the areas of technology and outer space, among others.
  • New Avenues: Participants proposed that both, India and France, should leverage their bilateral relationship to tackle multilateral issues. They identified three new avenues in which both sides could potentially work together. First, they emphasized the importance of expanding cooperation in cyberspace. They highlighted that both sides should build an industrial partnership for critical digital infrastructure, spearhead common initiatives for digital norms, and further joint projects on artificial intelligence. Second, participants suggested that, given the importance of space cooperation as one of the cornerstones of the India–France strategic partnership, both sides should also focus on the regulation of the outer space.  They noted that India and France share similar values and interests, including freedom of access to space, spatial autonomy for nations, and the need to avoid a space arms race. Third, participants underscored the need to expand maritime cooperation beyond military and traditional security issues. As two maritime powers, they proposed that both sides should focus on global ocean governance, along with the impact of climate change and environmental security. Within the IOR, participants agreed that both sides could collaborate on resilient infrastructure, disaster management and early warning systems, solar infrastructure, marine energy, sustainable fishing, and marine science.  
  • Beyond the Bilateral Level: Participants noted that India and France should look beyond bilateral cooperation. In the maritime domain, they recommended that both sides undertake capacity-building projects in other countries in the IOR. Participants also emphasized the importance of working with like-minded regional partners to develop maritime infrastructure and help protect marine biodiversity, particularly through frameworks such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Participants also emphasized the opportunity before both sides to work jointly in third countries as part of the International Solar Alliance. They noted that several African countries have joined the alliance, and suggested working toward a unified solar market in the continent with harmonized rules, regulations, and standards. 

This event summary was prepared by Shreyas Shende, an executive assistant and research assistant at Carnegie India, with inputs from Medha Prasanna, a research intern at Carnegie India.