Sale of more Rafale jets high on French President Macron’s India agenda

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on March 07, 2018 Published on March 07, 2018

A file picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris   -  AFP

Macron arrives Friday on 3-day visit; follow-on order for Scorpene subs also listed

Notwithstanding the controversy in India over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, the French are going to push New Delhi for a follow-on order of 100 or more of such warplanes under ‘Make in India’ during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The bilateral summit-level meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Macron will take place on Saturday. While all issues concerning India-France Strategic Partnership will be discussed, cooperation in defence is going to be the main focus from the French side, sources told BusinessLine.

Macron, on a three-day visit, will be accompanied by CEOs of almost all top French defence firms. This includes the chief of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier; Chairman and CEO of Naval Group Hervé Guillou; Thales CEO Patrice Caine; and Safran Group CEO Philippe Petitcolin.

The follow-on order for 100-150 more Rafale jets is likely to be one of the topmost items in Macron’s agenda.

According to diplomatic sources, the French are treating the recent controversy around the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft as an “internal political matter” of India.

The French are pushing India to go for another programme where Rafale will set up a production line here to address the needs of the Indian Air Force as well as augment defence exports from India.

Although India signed the $7.8-billion deal to acquire 36 Rafale jets, manufactured by Dassault Aviation, in fly-away condition with the previous French government, the present Macron administration has also been pushing to expand the deal.

During the visit of French Defence Minister Florence Parly to India in October last year, the issue of a follow-on order for Rafale was taken up. However, India has remained non-committal on the matter.

The French are also going to push for a follow-on order for three or more Scorpene-class submarines during the talks. This will be over and above the six Scorpene submarines that are being developed in India at a cost of $3.75 billion under the Indian Navy’s P75 programme by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) under technology transfer from Naval Group, sources added.

FTA push

Both sides will also be discussing the long pending free trade agreement between India and European Union, including the bilateral investment treaty that has become a cause of concern for some of the French companies operating in India, sources said.

On Sunday, Macron and Modi will be jointly chairing a summit meeting of the International Solar Alliance which will be attended by 25 heads of state.

Macron will also be visiting Agra and Varanasi.

Published on March 07, 2018
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