India has shared a blueprint of mutually beneficial defence industrial projects with France last month. BusinessLine’s exclusive insight into the roadmap reveals that India is seeking cooperation for jointly working on projects including maritime technologies, land warfare systems and equipment, robotics, autonomous vehicles and platforms and cyber defence. Additionally, India is keen that indigenous companies get access to the French market for crucial global exposure which will facilitate development of a military-industrial ecosystem.

France has emerged as among India’s top allies, showing willingness to transfer technologies for core defence systems that India needs to acquire to actually become self-reliant in the military sector. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the French President Emmanuel Macron’s bilateral meeting on the sidelines of G20 Summit held in September was reportedly focused on strengthening the defence cooperation through partnership in design, development, testing and manufacture of advanced defence technologies and platforms. The bilateral industrial cooperation would cater to the demands of countries in the Indo-Pacific.

Industry input

The Ministry of Defence took industry inputs to piece together the draft shared with France on scaling up the defence-industrial cooperation. Areas where the two countries can consider for co-development and co-production of projects are; maritime technologies, land warfare systems and equipment, robotics, autonomous vehicles and platforms and cyber defence, said sources. It is learnt that France is pushing for space defence cooperation showcasing capabilities it has but the talks are at a exploratory stage only.

Some of the negotiations on harvesting core technologies, going on for some time, have matured and others in the pipeline are believed to have been shared in the draft with France. State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has formed a joint venture with France-based Safran Helicopter Engines SAS, named as “Safhal Helicopter Engines Pvt Ltd”, for jointly designing, developing, certifying, producing, selling, and supporting helicopter engines, that is expected to arm Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) for armed forces.

Talks are also on for establishing an MRO facility for servicing and maintenance of Rafale aircraft the Indian Air Force (IAF) has in its fleet and for the naval version of the fighter jets India proposes to buy for the Navy. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), ahead of Modi’s visit to Paris in July, granted the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to the Navy for acquisition of 26 Rafale Marines from France at a cost of around $8 billion.

Hard bargain

India is driving a hard bargain with France to get market access for its big domestic companies overcoming the NATO and other constraints.

To create an enabling ecosystem, the Modi government is inclined to have the Indian-France Defence Industry Joint Working Group to find opportunities in the global supply chain and respective markets, sources aware of development informed. The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) already signed a MoU with GIFAS, the French Aerospace Industries Association, in 2018. Likewise, India has offered to consider establishing a mechanism for defence start-up partnership for incubation and mentorship.