India, France increase focus on defence industrial cooperation

India and France vowed to increase defence cooperation across all domains during bilateral talks between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his counterpart Florence Parly in New Delhi on Friday. Defence industrial cooperation was a key theme, with discussions on the Make in India initiative and possible joint projects in aerospace and maritime domain. The ministers acknowledged convergences on a number of strategic issues and discussed issues related to China and Afghanistan.

Parly said that France was ready to provide additional Rafale fighter jets to India and noted that the use of the same aircraft by the strategic partners reflected “real asset and strength” in their ties. She called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior government officials too.

Emphasis of talks was on industrial cooperation, given that several Indian companies have gained capabilities in the last few years and could be fit partners for French defence manufacturers, according to government insiders. India is seeking a change from buyer-seller relationship to a more meaningful future where the industry can collaborate and manufacture cutting edge systems.

Areas where interests and capabilities converge include development of future Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and underwater systems such as submarines. The maintenance, repair and overhaul sector has also been identified as having strong potential for collaboration.

The minister said that France was focused on increasing participation of Indian companies. “We are fully committed to the Make in India initiative, as well as to the further integration of Indian manufacturers into our global supply chains. Make in India has been a reality for French industry for several years, particularly for defence equipment such as submarines,” she said at a session organised by Ananta Aspen Centre. France would be interested in supplying jets for India’s second aircraft carrier planned, she said.

During government talks, the two sides had extended talks on regional security and convergences on developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to insiders. A substantial amount of time was also spent on discussing the China situation, with the Indian side expressing its concerns on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and its security and financial implications for the region.

India and France also spoke on increasing maritime cooperation with increased exchanges, exercises and information sharing. France has a strong interest in the Indian Ocean Region and the two sides have been working together quietly on the naval front. India shared its vision for an Asean focused approach to maritime security in the region.

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