Sitharaman meets French counterpart on boosting defence ties

Nirmala Sitharaman and Florence Parly in New Delhi.
Nirmala Sitharaman and Florence Parly in New Delhi.

New Delhi : India and France on Friday reviewed initiatives to enhance bilateral defence cooperation, as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held talks with her French counterpart Florence Parly in the national capital.

An official statement from the Defence Ministry said the two ministers “reviewed ongoing initiatives to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation as a key pillar of the strategic partnership between India and France”.

A slew of issues including the ongoing defence deals, as well as that for 36 Rafale fighter jets, industrial and technological partnership under the Make in India initiative, the regional security situation, including terrorism, and the overall global security scenario figured in the talks.

Defence operational cooperation, specially in the field of maritime security, joint exercises of the armed forces, were among the issues in focus, at a time when the Chinese Navy has been increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean Region.

“Recognising the growing significance of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific and the need for greater maritime domain awareness, India and France will further expand information sharing arrangements building upon the Technical Arrangement on Exchange of White Shipping information signed earlier this year,” the statement said.

“A range of measures to expand military to military ties, including enhancing the scope of their joint exercises, in particular the Varuna naval exercise scheduled in early 2018, were agreed upon. Both countries will also actively explore additional measures to facilitate operational level interactions between their respective armed forces,” the statement said.

The ministers reiterated their strong intention to further expand bilateral cooperation on counter- terrorism.

They also “comprehensively reviewed” developments in defence equipment and industry cooperation, where France is a major partner. They agreed to strongly support projects for defence manufacturing under the Make in India initiative as well as promote defence technology and Research and Development cooperation, the statement added.

The possibility of another deal for additional 36 Rafale jets for India is expected to have figured in the talks, though there was no official confirmation.

On Friday morning, Parly paid tributes at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at Indian Gate, and was accorded a Guard of Honour in the lawns of South Block, which homes the Defence Ministry.

A statement from the French Embassy on Thursday called India the “foremost Asian strategic partner” and said the Minister’s visit was aimed at strengthening all aspects of France’s fast developing defence cooperation with India.

Parly later went to Nagpur on Friday evening, where she participated in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) by its joint promoters, along with Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani and CMD – Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier.

DRAL will be part of the upcoming Aerospace Park in Nagpur and plans to develop an indigenous value-added supply chain, thereby building a strong base for the success of the Rafale programme under the Make in India initiative.

On Saturday, Parly will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for wide-ranging talks ahead of the State visit of President Emmanuel Macron. She will also meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

She would also visit the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai, were the Scorpene submarines are being made, and also visit the Western Naval Command.

The Scorpene submarines are being built with transfer of technology under the P75 project by MDL, in collaboration with French shipbuilding major, Naval Group (formerly DCNS).

She will also board the INS Kalvari, the first of the six Scorpene submarines to have been delivered to the Indian Navy.



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