Bilateral visits in recent weeks which also backed India’s pitch to indigenise military production also refreshed France’s interest in the world’s second largest arms importer.
The PLA Navy’s aggressive posture towards Indian Ocean countries and Galwan Valley conflict were the key factors behind deepening military ties between France and India.
“India and China are huge markets but since Beijing does not buy, India becomes vital to France,” said Anil Chopra, director-general of India’s Centre for Air Power Studies military think tank.
“So France wants to win our hearts, our politicians and our military to be able to sell their jets and their equipment to us because ultimately the Indian air force cannot just have 36 Rafales,” Chopra told RFI.
France has delivered 33 of the 36 Rafales as part of a 2016 deal worth seven billion Euros and its Defence Minister Florence Parly in a recent visit hoped to sell more to outfit India’s new aircraft carrier undergoing sea trials.
“We know that the aircraft carrier will soon be (there),” Parly said during her second visit in 15 months while India separately announced plans for the joint military production of French aircraft engines.
India in 2007 planned to buy 126 fighter jets but it was scaled down to 36 planes and France was chosen as the supplier.
Analyst Chopra argued India needed at least 36 additional Rafale jets to counter border threats from uneasy neighbours China and Pakistan.
Others saw India’s slipping dependence on long-time weapons supplier Russia as another cause for France to rejoice.
Russia’s arms exports to India during 2015-2019 fell 16 percent to 56 percent while French deliveries rose by a staggering 715 percent in the same period.
But Anil Golani, a retired air vice marshal, argued India was keen on “strategic autonomy”, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Delhi 10 days before Parly’s December 17 visit.
“The old partnership continues and at the same time India as a sovereign nation wants to keep its options open without antagonising Russia while also building a strong partnership with other nations,” Golani told GDC.
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