India, France vow to strengthen defence, energy ties

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on March 10, 2018

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman exchanges files with her French counterpart Florence Parly as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron look on, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on Saturday.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Giving a boost to their strategic partnership, India and France on Saturday vowed to strengthen defence and energy ties with each other. However, despite a major push by France, India did not agree to buying additional Rafale fighter jets from them.

During a bilateral meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron, who is on a four-day visit here, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 14 agreements were signed ranging from defence to solar energy.

“We have strong relations in defence equipment and manufacturing. We welcome the commitment of France for Make in India in the defence sector,” Modi said post his hour-long meeting with Macron at the capital’s Hyderabad House.

An agreement on the provision of reciprocal logistics support between both the Armed Forces one of the 14 pacts that got inked during the meeting. It was signed by the Defence Ministers of India and France, Nirmala Sitharaman and Florence Parly.

The agreement seeks to facilitate the reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies and services between the armed forces of the two countries during authorised port visits, joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts among others.

However, while Modi sought greater French investment in the country’s defence sector, India has not agreed to buy additional Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force manufactured by French aerospace giant Dassault Aviation, sources told BusinessLine.

Strategic partnership

According to the joint statement issued after the meeting, both leaders noted with satisfaction the on-schedule progress in acquisition of 36 Rafale warplanes for Rs. 58,000 crore under the government-to-government agreement signed in 2016. The first aircraft is expected to arrive by 2019.

"India had made a sovereign decision in this respect (Rafale) and we are monitoring the progress in the field. We want to continue the programme very much. It is a long-term contract which is mutually beneficial. I personally consider it as the heart of the strategic partnership," Macron told reporters here post his meeting with Modi.

Both leaders also took note of the commissioning of INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene submarine made in India by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL) in collaboration with French shipbuilder Naval Group under the Indian Navy ‘Project 75’ programme, according to the joint statement.

The leaders also noted ongoing discussions between DRDO and SAFRAN on combat aircraft engine and encouraged necessary measures and forward looking approaches to facilitate early conclusion.

“They looked forward to continue their discussions to expand and deepen the ongoing defence manufacturing partnerships. They acknowledged that the Make-in-India initiative offers a valuable opportunity for Indian and French defence enterprises to enter into arrangements for co-development and co-production of defence equipment in India, including through transfer of know-how and technologies to the mutual benefit of all parties. In this context, the leaders welcomed various joint ventures between Indian and French companies and reaffirmed their commitment to facilitate the establishment of new ones,” said the joint statement.

Maritime security

India and France also agreed to take their cooperation in maritime security to the next level. A ‘Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region’ was also agreed upon by both countries in order to maintain the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications in accordance with the international law, for countering maritime terrorism and piracy, for building maritime domain awareness, for capacity building and for greater coordination in regional/international fora in the region.

In a direct reference to China’s aggressive stance in South China Sea, Macron said sea lanes should be free from aggression and any kind of domination over those cannot be tolerated.

Both leaders will be chairing the International Solar Alliance Summit which is going to be attended by 25 Heads of State.

Published on March 10, 2018
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