The Rafale Group: Ushering Towards Multipolarity

The emergence of a multipolar world enkindled a race for bloc diplomacy. Nations are pursuing ways to converge their interests to form cliques based on mutual strategic objectives. The fundamental idea behind bloc diplomacy is to bolster frailty and supplement strengths through cooperation. It provides a window of opportunity for nations to cover their shortcomings and have a greater imprint on geopolitics. The Rafale group is one example of bloc diplomacy involving India, France, and the UAE. The common link between these geographically distant nations is their commitment to pursue a multipolar world. Furthermore, they strive to transition from regional to global power. In this piece, we’ll dig into the dynamics of this trilateral partnership vis-à-vis new global realities.


The Rafael Group is a need of the hour for the member countries in these uncertain times. Food scarcity, a looming global recession, an expansionist China, and a divided Europe are key factors pulling these countries closer. The Ukraine war further added to their woes. Another major factor is unreliable US policies. A ripple of reckless policies, from the Afghan debacle to the SWIFT sanctions on Russia, has spooked US allies to watch out for other options. Amidst an expanding NATO and hegemonic China, the Rafale group shows a ray of hope for other regional powers. The idea is to pursue independent policies catering to national interests through collaboration with like-minded nations. It underlines that nations could very well prosper without becoming vassal states of other hegemonic powers. In the present scenario, the Rafale Group is a tailor-made partnership.


The formation of the Rafale trilateral group was announced on February 4, 2023, after a telephonic conversation between the foreign ministers of India, France, and the UAE. The foundation of this troika was laid down back in September 2022 in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA. Immediately, after a comprehensive telephonic discussion between foreign ministers, a joint statement was released defining the scope of this troika. The highlights of the joint statement included cooperation in the energy sector, specifically solar and nuclear energy, and an enhanced focus on the Indian Ocean region (IOR). The statement also talked about greater collaboration with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Furthermore, the Rafale initiative will serve as a platform to expand cooperation between member countries on sustainable projects. In a nutshell, through this initiative, India, the UAE, and France aim to align their economic, defence, and social policies.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (centre), UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed (left), and Catherine Colonna of France hold the first India-UAE-France ministerial meeting.


The underpinning aspect of the Rafale Group has been the strong fundamentals of bilateral relations among member states. A common vision, backed by a tight-knit partnership, further smoothed the formation of this group. The cornerstone of this partnership is strong diplomatic, economic, and defence ties among member states. The following are some examples reflecting multi-facet relationships among India, UAE, and France: –



  • India and the UAE signed the landmark Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) on February 18, 2022, during the India-UAE Virtual Summit. This deal could help increase bilateral trade to about $100 billion in the next five years.
  • UAE is the 7th largest investor in India, with cumulative FDI inflows of US$ 15.57 billion from April 2000 to March 2023.
  • During the food summit held in December 2020, the UAE committed to investing US$7 billion in India’s food sector.
  • The bilateral trade between India and the UAE has touched historic highs during FY 2022–23. Trade has increased from US$ 72.9 billion (Apr 21–Mar 2022) to US$ 84.5 billion (Apr 22–Mar 2023), registering a year-on-year increase of 16%.
  • India, in July 2023, signed an agreement with the UAE allowing it to settle trade in rupees instead of dollars. Subsequently, India bought 1 million barrels of crude oil in Indian rupees. The UAE approved the UPI payment system, which will link with the UAE’s IPP system.

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Indian Minister Mr Piyush Goyal Signing Free Trade Agreement With The UAE Counterpart Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade.


  • Trade relations between India and France have witnessed steady growth, with bilateral trade reaching an impressive US$ 13.4 billion in 2022–23 and exports from India crossing $7 billion. Indian imports are also significant and stood at around $5.8 billion during 2022–23.
  • France has emerged as the 11th largest investor in India, with an FDI inflow of US$ 10.5 billion from April 2000 to March 2023.
  • India and France have agreed to use the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in France. In the coming days, it will begin at the Eiffel Tower, which means Indian tourists will now be able to pay in rupees.
  • The 18th Joint Economic Committee meeting held virtually between the two countries on November 27, 2020, led to the signing of a bilateral ‘Fast Track Mechanism’ for investors.


  • The trade exchange between the UAE and France grew by 16.8 per cent in 2022, reaching AED29.44 billion (US$8 billion), compared to AED25.2 billion ($6.8 billion) in 2021.
  • In 2022, the UAE and France signed a strategic agreement to cooperate in the energy sector, including hydrogen, renewable energy, and nuclear energy.
  • Jewellery and precious metals topped the list of imports from France in 2022, followed by jet engines and perfumes, while packaging products were the UAE’s leading export commodity.



  • The trilateral partnership between the UAE, India, and France, aka the Rafale Group, is named after Rafale aircraft manufactured by French Dassault Aviation, which forms the backbone of the air force of the respective nations. India is operating 36 Rafael aircraft with the option of repeat orders. Meanwhile, the UAE signed the biggest-ever defence deal for 80 Rafael aircraft for $19 billion.
  • India, France, and the UAE conducted their first-ever trilateral maritime partnership exercise between the three navies from June 7–8 in the Gulf of Oman.
  • India and France are determined to strengthen the cooperation initiated under the Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region adopted in 2018 and have therefore adopted a new Indo-Pacific Roadmap.
  • India and France carry out several defence exercises, which include the FRINJEX-23 military exercise, the VARUNA naval exercise, and the GARUDA air force exercise.
  • France has been a crucial partner in supporting India’s Make-in-India initiative in the defence sector. France also collaborated with India in manufacturing six scorpene-class submarines for the Indian Navy.
  • India and the UAE carry out an annual air force exercise named “Exercise Desert Eagle”, and a naval exercise named “Zayed Talwar”.


  • On the diplomatic front, India, UAE, and France more or less remain on the same page. Both the UAE and France support India on the issue of Kashmir and terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
  • France, being a P-5 member of the UNSC, and the UAE, being a major Arab player, support India’s bid for permanent membership in the UNSC.
  • All three countries are also part of many multilateral engagements, like the United Nations and the G-20. India and the UAE are also member states of the BRICS and I2U2 platforms.

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The Rafale initiative is currently at its nascent stage, but once mature, it is capable of turning the tide in regional geopolitics. It should not be judged by its current status but by its untapped potential. The potential of this grouping can be analysed by looking at the prospects of its member states. India, the largest country and fastest-growing economy; France, a P-5 nation and strongest military power in Europe; and the UAE, an energy-rich country. By all parameters, this has to be the ideal grouping for the future. For India, this grouping addresses its concerns regarding energy needs as well as support in the UNSC. Moreover, the UAE and France also get access to massive Indian markets and Indian support for logistics in the Indo-Pacific region. Hence, it’s a win-win cooperation, which would not only bring progress but also reduce dependence on the US for the member countries.


Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (4th year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.

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