The recent reports of fresh arms deals between France, India, and Qatar are but a conspicuous hint of France's defense industry steadily gaining traction. These developments emerge against the backdrop of an abrupt decline in Russian arms exports, a consequence of the protracted war in Ukraine.
The global dynamics of arms trade have thus been set into motion, spurring speculation that France might soon outstrip Russia to secure the position of the world's second-largest arms exporter, second only to the United States.
In a symbolic display of this emerging geopolitical shift, this year's Bastille Day military parade, held on July 14, bore witness to an unusual spectacle. French President Emmanuel Macron was not alone in observing the ceremonial proceedings; he was joined by his esteemed guest, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The parade, traditionally an exclusive display of French military might, was this year punctuated by the march of the Indian Tri-Services contingent and the aerial grace of Indian Air Force's Dassault Rafale combat aircraft, all French-made.
Tectonic Shifts in International Arms Trade
It is evident to the well-informed observers of the international arms trade that these developments were long in the making. On the eve of the grand parade, New Delhi had given preliminary approval for the purchase of six Scorpène submarines and 26 Rafale jets destined for the Indian Navy.
Barely a fortnight later, the French newspaper La Tribune reported that Qatar was contemplating the addition of 24 more Rafales to its fleet. “For France, we have a total number of 210 combat aircraft [currently on order] and for Russia we only have 84,” Wezeman said.
“These numbers can change, of course, but they do indicate that for sure France will remain a major arms exporter”. Analysts attribute the waning of Russian arms sales to a variety of factors, a significant one being the conflict in Ukraine.
Countries naturally gravitate towards diversifying their supply chains, but the Ukrainian crisis in February 2022 has driven Russia to focus more on its war efforts, thus prioritizing internal arms retention and the replacement of weapons lost in combat over exports.
Furthermore, multiple rounds of international sanctions against Russia have undoubtedly impacted its ability to procure materials essential for weapons manufacturing, thereby hampering its export capabilities. Frontline reports from Ukraine, highlighting the lackluster performance of Russian weaponry, have further tarnished Russia's reputation in the arms market.
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