India and France have announced a slew of defence agreements, including “ground-breaking” cooperation in advanced aeronautical technologies on the joint development of a combat aircraft engine, but abstained from announcing in the joint statement issued after bilateral talks between Prime Minister Nadrendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron about the acquisition of 26 maritime Rafale for Indian Navy. This despite the fact that the Ministry of Defence had officially stated that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the Rafale deal on Thursday ahead of Modi-Macron meeting in Paris.
Parallely, Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the fighter aircraft, on Friday said the “Indian government announced the selection of Navy Rafale to equip the Indian Navy with a latest generation fighter”.
In the “Horizon 2047: 25th Anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership, Towards A Century of India-France Relations”, which was part of the joint statement issued late last night, the only reference to the fighter aircraft was that the two countries “welcome the timely delivery of the 36 Rafale ordered by India” for Indian Air Force.
On being asked about the maritime Rafale deal, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said, “The matrix of defence partnership are not defined by single acquisition or non-acquisition, a single procurement or a transcation”.
Reflecting maturing of ties, the two sides also announced industrial cooperation for motorisation of heavy-lift helicopters under the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) programme with Safran Helicopter Engine.
To enable progress on the IMRH programme, a Shareholders’ Agreement between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), India and Safran Helicopter Engine, France has been concluded for engine development, stated the joint statement.
“These ventures are in line with the spirit of trust that prevails between India and France in the sharing and joint development of critical components and technology building blocks, based on the successful Indo-French experience in technology transfer,” the two countries emphasised.
The two friendly nations also said they were ready to explore more ambitious projects to develop the Indian submarine fleet and its performance after the success of the first Scorpene submarine construction programme (P75-Kalvari). The DAC had also granted AoN for three Scorpene submarines that are to be manufactured by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL).
Similarly, a contract was being concluded between Safran Helicopter Engine and HAL for the Transfer of Technology of Forging and Castings for the Shakti engine for Advanced Light Helicopter. An MoU was also signed between Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd. (GRSE), and Naval Group France, to collaborate in the field of surface ship that “caters to fulfil the requirement of India and international Naval forces”.
“France is one of India’s key partners in the development of a self-reliant defence industrial and technological base. India and France are committed to cooperating in the co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including for the benefit of third countries,” said the statement.
Both countries are also working towards adopting a Roadmap on Defence Industrial Cooperation and India is setting up a Technical Office of the DRDO at its embassy in Paris.