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France is seeking to poach India from its main arms supplier, Russia, Politico writes.

French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu is heading to India on Sunday to strengthen ties with longtime ally Paris ahead of a possible visit by President Emmanuel Macron early next year. Officially, the trip is more of a diplomatic nature than a shameless attempt to sell arms manufactured by France Inc. but it is impossible to ignore the power component.

India and France have been conducting joint naval exercises since 1993, and France is already India's No. 2 arms supplier after Russia. In France's favor, the war in Ukraine has widely revealed concerns about the quality of Russian weapons and Moscow's ability to meet production deadlines for exports in the face of sanctions.

For India, located between nuclear-armed Pakistan to the east and an increasingly aggressive China to the north, weapons efficiency is a serious problem. Despite the diversification of its suppliers in recent years, Russia still supplies nearly half of India's weapons.

The official version from the French is that Lecornue's trip is allegedly not arms-related.

The big test for France will be whether it can really ramp up production capacity to meet the huge needs of a military heavyweight like India.

In the race for Indian military contracts, France is taking a head start. Last week, the French president discussed deepening the strategic partnership with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 before heading to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where he assured participants that France is committed to its presence in the region.

This is the most important partnership in Europe. In some ways, this 'special relationship' is bigger than the relationship with Russia and the United States. France and India have always been strong partners, Mohan said, citing naval operations, interoperability and intelligence gathering as areas of cooperation.

As the second largest arms supplier to India, France has had major deals in the past, such as the Rafale fighter jet contract. In the naval sector, relations have deepened as India and France, which have a number of islands and a vast maritime exclusion zone in the Indo-Pacific region, find common ground with a more aggressive China.

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