India and France agree on mutually beneficial defence industrial partnership roadmap.
India and France have firmed up a mutually beneficial defence industrial partnership roadmap for joint development and production of key military projects and technology collaboration across spheres such as space, land warfare, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Friday.
This follows bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron in Jaipur on Thursday, where the two discussed multiple issues ranging from defence, space, education, health, mobility, and economic cooperation to the situation in Gaza and the Red Sea crisis.
The decision on adopting a defence production roadmap comes aftepacts
ia shared a blueprint of defence industrial co-operation in October 2023 so that both nations could flag core areas, including land warfare systems and equipment, robotics, autonomous platforms, and cyber, for working jointly. businessline exclusively reported this on November 15.
“The roadmap will involve identifying areas for partnership in the defence industrial sector that prioritise co-designing, co-development, and co-production, and also building the defence supply chains between the two countries so that they can not only fulfil the defence needs of India and France but also be a useful contributor to the security partnership with other countries who might be in use of similar products,” Kwatra said.
It will include both space and air technology; maritime technology, including underwater domain awareness; equipment and systems related to land warfare; and also robotics, AI, and autonomous vehicles and platforms, he added.
The Foreign Secretary also announced other key pacts, including an industrial partnership between Tata and Airbus helicopters for the production of H125 helicopters with a significant indigenous and localization component, an agreement on a defence space partnership, and an MoU between New Space India Limited (NSIL) and Arianespace on satellite launches.
The Final Assembly Line (FAL) for H125 single-engine helicopters will be set up in Vadodara, Gujarat. This is the second major deal between the two aerospace players after the ₹21,000 crore contract signed in 2021 for supplying 56 C-295 transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
Modi and Macron also discussed the situation in Ukraine, Gaza, and the Red Sea crisis.
“With regards to developments in the Red Sea, the potential disruptions and the actual things happening in the maritime domain there that are causing disruption to commercial shipping is a matter of serious concern, and both leaders focused on it,” Kwatra said.
The Foreign Secretary said that agreements were reached on mobility for young professionals and confirmed that a five-year Schengen visa provision for Indian students completing their Masters in France will be activated.
Other agreements signed included ones between the Department of Science and Technology and French counterpart institutions. There would be collaborations on research in clean energy, decarbonised hydrogen, applied mathematics, digital technology, and precision agriculture.
There were also pacts on healthcare co-operation, education, training, and research that would include the space of digital health and the use of artificial intelligence in the healthcare sector.
“It’s been agreed that the year 2026 will be celebrated as the India-France year of innovation,” Kwatra said.
India, France in talks for financing mechanism, localisation for Jaitapur n-project.
India and France are trying to move forward on elements related to putting in place a financing mechanism and localisation component for the 9,900 MWe Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district.
Responding to questions on civil nuclear cooperation between India and France and whether the Jaitapur project was put on pause, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said the French power company EDF and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) were discussing elements such as a financing mechanism and localisation component of the project.
“The two entities on both sides — EDF and NPCIL — are essentially trying to move forward on these issues and a whole lot of progress has been made,” the foreign secretary said.
The first memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the Jaitapur nuclear project was inked in 2009 with French nuclear supplier Areva, which went bankrupt.
In 2016, the EDF and NPCIL signed a revised MoU, and an “industrial way forward” in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
In 2020, the EDF submitted its techno-commercial offer for the project.
The French company plans to supply six European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) of 1,650 MW each, considered the most advanced and largest nuclear power plants ever developed.
The Foreign Secretary said discussions were ongoing between EDF and NPCIL to ensure that “what we put on the ground is financially viable, cost-effective and has a localisation component.”
“But we are doing so under a very strong strategic commitment to the partnership on civil nuclear energy space,” Kwatra said.
“So, from our side the perspective on the principles in which we view this partnership, the specifics, the way we take it forward is absolutely clear,” he added.
Kwatra said small and modular reactors (SMR) was a relatively new space in terms of discussions between the two countries.
“You know India has its own reasonably strong SMR programme so technology needs to come together, viability needs to come together and its positioning in the overall energy mix needs to come together. Those are very positive, forward-leaning ongoing conversations between the two countries,” the foreign secretary said.
In another article published in Times of India:
Make in India, make for defending India.
Republic Day parade showcased made-in-India military platforms like LCH Prachand chopper, Pinaka rocket launchers, Nag anti-tank missiles and Swathi Weapon Locating Radar. Good as that is, it isn’t enough. Analysis by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), shows India was the world’s top arms importer between 2018 and 2022. This level of imports has serious implications for India’s defence preparedness in the current global scenario.
Stressed supply chains
Japan recently modified post-WWII era rules to indirectly permit export of Patriot missiles to Ukraine via US. This month, a senior General Electric executive confirmed that supplies of GE404 engines to India, crucial for LCA fighter programme, are going to be delayed by a year. A few weeks earlier, reports came of Indian-made 155mm artillery shells being used by Ukrainian army. The common thread here is global recapitalisation of militaries and inability of current military industrial complex (MIC) to adequately “surge” production to meet galloping demand. It’s because of the latter that Western powers are having to scrounge into their own reserves to supply Ukraine.
It’s showing up in numbers. Analysis by Financial Times of 15 defence contractors shows that order backlog of these firms topped $777bn in 2022, up 10% from two years earlier. Europe had its steepest rise in military expenditure in a few generations — around 30% — in 2022. Numbers for Russia and China are not available with as much granularity, but just going by China’s naval buildout in recent years, order backlogs with Chinese defence contractors are likely to be very large too.
Surge isn’t easy
As per SIPRI, global military expenditure rose 3.7% in real terms to touch $2.2trn in 2022. In defence, lead times are high. From doctrinal changes to budget sanctions to order placements to actual production. Which is why actual expenditure currently is likely to be the low-end of the future. Military expenditure as % of GDP, globally, remains in the 2.2-2.3% ballpark. The issue is supply chain and skilled labour shortages resulting in supplies failing to meet demand.
No Plan B
What does it mean for India? The primary lesson is “No Plan B” to domestic supplies, especially true for consumables like ammunition and spare parts. Expensive, multi-billion dollar platforms that excite public imagination (like Rafale fighters or S400 SAMs) are toothless if they run out of either. A lesson learnt painfully several times in recent decades. In Kargil, IAF had less than 100 imported precision guided munitions, each specifically earmarked for a high-value target. Ergo, there was nothing that could be spared easily.
Where are the orders?
A second lesson is that it’s even tougher to build surge capacities. If it’s tough for American MIC, it’s many times tougher for a fledgling Indian version. Domestic contractors need to have enough orderbooks to lubricate a stable supply chain that can be surged up in emergencies. An order here followed by another one in three years and a third after seven years keep supply chains fragile.
Bare bones won’t do
Since 1998 nuclear tests, it has been assumed that conventional wars would be short and sharp. India’s war wastage reserves, consequently, are known to be kept at bare-bones levels. Validated by all-too-frequent “emergency purchases” of ammunition every time there’s tension on the border. With so much money and attention spent on big platforms — tanks, fighters, ships — it’s self-defeating to have bare-bones levels of sustenance capacities for these platforms. It’s only recently that India became self-sufficient in 155mm ammunition, nearly four decades after Indian army inducted the first 155mm gun
Modi government has pushed the pedal hard on Atmanirbharta in defence. From negative lists for imports to political ownership of some marquee projects (like LCA) to wider military reforms (CDS, Agnipath). Unfortunately, India doesn’t have luxury of time and space anymore. The world in general, India’s neighbourhood in particular, is brimming with tensions and conflicts. S&P Aerospace and Defense Index is up 25% over the last year.
Need for robust MIC
India is the fourth largest military spender in the world, so the issue isn’t about budget as much as ensuring biggest bang for the buck. But choices need to be made — whether to buy a third aircraft carrier or recapitalise a dwindling submarine fleet. Whether to focus on ownership (public sector vs private sector) or on outcomes. Whether to import the most expensive assault rifle or get Indian industry to develop a Battlefield Management System.
Along with expanded physical infrastructure and domestic capacity in critical manufactured products, scope and scale of domestic MIC is likely to be crucial in India’s emergence as a pole in a bitterly-contested world. We need to sweat a lot more in peace if we want to bleed less in war.