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NEW DELHI: India and France have decided to further crank up military-to-military ties, including joint combat exercises, as well as enhance cooperation in maritime security and counter-terrorism towards expanding their bilateral strategic partnership.
The delegation-level meeting led by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her French counterpart Florence Parly, who is here in the run-up to President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India in December, on Friday also agreed to “strongly support” projects for defence manufacturing under the “Make in India” initiative as well as promote defence technology and R&D cooperation.
In an exclusive interview with TOI on Thursday, Parly had said France would take “into account your country’s legitimate interest of having ‘Make in India’ components” if India decides to go in for another 36 Rafale fighters, after the first 36 jets are delivered to IAF by 2022 under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked in September last year.
French Naval Group-DCNS, of course, is also among the four contenders for Project-75 (India), under which six advanced stealth submarines are to be built in India through collaboration between a foreign ship-builder and an Indian shipyard for an estimated Rs 70,000 crore. The French armament company is already involved in the construction of six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks in Mumbai under the over Rs 23,000 crore Project-75.
At the meeting on Friday, the two sides agreed on a range of measures to expand military-to-military ties, which includes enhancing the scope of their joint exercises, in particular the “Varuna” naval exercise scheduled for early 2018. “Both countries will also actively explore additional measures to facilitate operational level interactions between their respective armed forces,” said an official.