France can overtake Russia in the Indian arms market
France seeks to entice India with large arms deals.
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu arrived in India on November 27 to strengthen bilateral ties, ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s scheduled visit early next year.
These two countries have a close and friendly relationship, are longtime allies as well as partners in the military field, contributing to New Delhi’s policy of strategic autonomy in defense.
Since 1993, India and France have conducted joint naval exercises. France is also the number two arms supplier to India, after Russia. However, the war in Ukraine is threatening Russia’s position in India, when its corporations face many difficulties in making weapons due to a series of Western sanctions, as well as an unexpected performance. of some Russian weapons in real combat.
Clea Caulcutt, a veteran commentator of Politico, said that this context gives France a favorable opportunity to “usurp” Russia in the Indian arms market, as well as accelerate the process of turning New Delhi into a rival. partner in President Macron’s grand strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.
The effectiveness of weapons on the battlefield is said to be an urgent concern for India, which has strained relations with its two nuclear-armed neighbors, Pakistan and China. Despite efforts to diversify its arms supply in recent years, New Delhi still buys nearly half of its weapons from Moscow.
“India feels the need to quickly diversify its supply, find new weapons manufacturers, and France is seen as an important partner,” said Garima Mohan, EU-India expert from the Marshall Fund. know.
Minister Lecornu’s adviser said his trip was not focused on arms sales, but it sent an important message to India that “Europe has alternatives to Russian arms supplies”. .
In the race for large military contracts with India, France has had a pretty good start.
On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, French President Macron discussed “deepening the strategic partnership” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Over the years, the two leaders have shown a warm relationship and consider each other good friends on social media. France and India have cultivated this relationship since the 1990s, and Mr. Macron has never missed an opportunity to show his closeness to Mr. Modi in public.
“France and India have always been strong partners. This is the most important partnership in Europe,” said expert Mohan, citing joint naval exercises and information sharing. intelligence and combat coordination ability of the two countries.
France has signed large arms contracts, including the sale of Rafale fighters to India. Paris-New Delhi ties are also deepening in the naval sphere, in the face of growing pressure from Beijing in the Indo-Pacific region.
“The China issue is a big thing in common between France and India,” said Isabelle Saint-Mezard, a lecturer at the French Institute of Geopolitics at the University of Paris. “They need the tools to keep a close eye on China’s activities as Beijing deploys warships and submarines in the region.”
In the context of Russia facing many setbacks on the Ukraine battlefield as well as an unprecedented series of sanctions from the West, defense cooperation between France and India can reach a new level.
According to a 2020 study by the US-based Stimson Center, 70-85% of the Indian armed forces use Russian military equipment. Prime Minister Modi’s government is considering reducing this rate.
“The government realizes that it is not wise to put all the eggs in one basket,” said an Indian analyst who asked not to be named.
Western observers also assess that the Ukraine war has exposed some shortcomings and limitations of Russian weapons. According to a Ukrainian government report, many Russian weapons are “ineffective” and “outdated”, as missiles repeatedly miss their targets, while armor is easily neutralized by small arms.
Against this backdrop, France can win some attractive contracts in India. The Indian Air Force intends to purchase more than 100 new aircraft to upgrade its fighter fleet. New Delhi also has an unclaimed submarine tender.
During his November 27 trip, French Defense Minister Lecornu was invited to visit the Southern Naval Command in Koichi and board INS Vikrant, India’s first domestic aircraft carrier.
New Delhi plans to buy 26 new fighters for the aircraft carrier Vikrant. The American F/A-18 Super Hornet and the French Rafale-M are two models competing for this contract.
However, the big test for Paris is whether it can increase its defense production capacity to meet the huge weapons needs of a military power like India.
The French defense industry is struggling to ramp up production to meet domestic and global demand following the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict. Mr Macron warned in June that France needed to build a “war economy”, invest more and simplify and speed up production chains.
“They are planning to increase production, but production capacity and bureaucracy cause some problems,” said Michel Goya, a French defense adviser. “The question remains whether the French defense industry is capable of transforming from a ‘luxury craftsmanship’ to a ‘mass production industry’.”
The French Caesar self-propelled howitzer proved effective in Ukraine, but each complex took nearly two years to build. This time is enough for other suppliers such as the US, Israel or South Korea to seize the opportunity.
France and its rivals also need to clarify the Russia-India relationship in the current context. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted that the relationship between New Delhi and Moscow had “developed over decades, at a time when the US had not yet become a partner with India”.
In addition to weapons, India has increased cooperation with Russia, especially in the field of energy, after Moscow launched a military operation in Ukraine. India also refuses to enforce Western sanctions against Russia.
“Things cannot change overnight. India is very dependent on Russia. Russia’s complex weapons and fighter contracts have tied them up in the medium term,” Ms. Saint-Mézard said. “As the US also turns its focus to the Pacific, France could lose out in the competition.”
From : Honeysfashion