NEW DELHI: India’s direct acquisition of the French fighter jet Rafale is on schedule. The government-to-government deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 while on a visit to Paris and the agreement was signed in 2016. .
The Rafale deal has come under cloud and evoked controversy as the Congress has alleged a scam in the mega deal to acquire fighter jets for the Indian Air Force which is faced with depleted squadrons of fighter aircraft. The previous UPA government had decided to go in for 126 Rafale jets but the NDA government slashed it to 36 aircraft. The Congress has demanded to know the exact price of each Rafale fighter jet.
The detailed joint statement, released on Saturday after delegation level talks between India and France, noted that both Mr Modi and the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron were satisfied with the “on-schedule progress in the implementation of acquisition related agreement, including the Rafale aircraft agreement signed in 2016.’’
India and France decided to take their strategic partnership to a new level by holding biennial summits between India’s Prime Minister and the President of France.
The French President Macron who is on his maiden visit to India and Prime Minister Modi agreed to deepen, strengthen the bilateral ties based on shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law and respect for human rights. Mr. Macron is in India on a four-day visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi.
They also noted the commissioning of INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene submarine made in India by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd., in collaboration with Naval Group, the French shipbuilder.
The two leaders 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. The leaders noted ongoing discussions between DRDO and SAFRAN on combat aircraft engine and encouraged necessary measures and forward looking approaches to facilitate early conclusion,’’ the joint statement said.
The two leaders will also co-host the Founding Summit of the International Solar Alliance in the Capital on Sunday. At the bilateral talks at Hyderabad House, the leaders held wide ranging and constructive discussions and underlined the growing convergence between the two countries on regional and international issues. The India-France strategic partnership has completed two decades.
The leaders welcomed the signing of the “Agreement between India and France regarding the Exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information” between the two countries, reflecting the high level of strategic trust between them. Both sides also agreed to create an annual defence dialogue at the ministerial level.
Both Mr. Macron and Mr. Modi appreciated the deepening interactions in the maritime domain for enhanced cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region. In that context, they welcomed the “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region”, as a guiding beacon for such partnership.
Another key agreement inked between the two countries provides for reciprocal logistics support between their Armed Forces, which seeks to extend logistical support on reciprocal access to respective facilities for Indian and French armed forces. The agreement is symbolic of the strategic depth and maturity reached in India-France defence ties.
The two leaders emphasized the importance of the regular joint military exercises. They welcomed the successful conduct of the Varuna naval exercise held in France in April 2017, and the Shakti army exercise held in France this January 2018. Both sides look forward to the next Varuna naval in India in the coming weeks and to the next Garuda air force exercise in France in 2019. Both sides affirmed their intention to enhance the level of joint military exercises and maintain the operational quality-level of these exercises in the future.
They reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross-border terrorism and terror-related incidents in France and India. Both leaders also affirmed that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever it may be and it should not be associated with any religion, creed, nationality and ethnicity. Recalling the joint statement on terrorism adopted by the two countries in January 2016, the two leaders reaffirmed their strong determination to eliminate terrorism everywhere it is to be found. They agreed that more must be done by the international community to stem terrorism financing and welcomed the organization of an International Conference on Fighting Terrorism Financing in Paris in April 2018 by the French government.
They also called upon all countries to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing channels, and halting cross-border movement of terrorists like Al Qaeda, Daesh/ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammed, HizbulMujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayabba, and their affiliates as well as terrorist groups threatening peace and security in South Asia and the Sahel region.
The two leaders in addition to pursuing the excellent cooperation between the intervention forces (NSG-GIGN) and the investigation agencies of the two countries, agreed to enhance operational cooperation between the Indian and French counter-terrorism agencies and launch a new cooperation effort to prevent and fight radicalization, in particular online.
Both Mr. Modi and Mr. Macron agreed to strengthen counter-terrorism in Multilateral Fora such as UN, GCTF, FATF and G20 etc. They called upon all UN member countries to implement the UNSC Resolution 1267 and other relevant resolutions designating terrorist entities. The leaders also agreed to work together on early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN.
They welcomed the conclusion of an Agreement on Prevention of the Illicit Consumption of and Reduction of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Chemical Precursors between the two countries aimed at effective institutional interaction and curbing transnational narcotics trafficking including disruption of terrorist financing.
In pursuance of the 2008 Agreement on the Development of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy between India and France as well as the January 2016 roadmap of cooperation, they noted with satisfaction the conclusion of the Industrial Way Forward Agreement between NPCIL and EDF for the Implementation of six nuclear power reactor units at Jaitapur, Maharashtra, India.
The two leaders reiterated the goal of commencing works at the Jaitapur site around the end of 2018, and encouraged NPCIL and EDF to accelerate the contractual discussions in that respect. Once installed, the Jaitapur project will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, with a total capacity of 9.6 GW. It will contribute, in addition to renewable energy, to achieving India’s goal of 40% non-fossil energy by 2030.
They welcomed the understanding shared by the two parties on the enforcement of India’s rules and regulations on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages applicable to the Jaitapur project.
Building on the historical and formidable linkages in the arena of civilian space, the leaders welcomed the “India-France Joint Vision for Space Cooperation” which spells out the concrete areas of future cooperation in this field.
Prime Minister Modi and President Macron appreciated the role of continuing people-to-people exchanges between the two countries and underscored the necessity of greater youth exchange programmes for promotion of understanding of each other’s cultures. They welcomed in this regard the launch of the “France-India Programme for the Future”, a French initiative aimed at fostering youth exchanges,which are vital for future growth of India-France ties.
The leaders noted with satisfaction the involvement of French companies in several new and ongoing manufacturing partnership projects in India.
Both sides noted with satisfaction the growth in bilateral trade during the recent period, and expressed their desire that this momentum be sustained with the aim of raising trade in goods to 15 billion euros by 2022. They encouraged SMEs and mid-cap companies to play a growing role in the economic and commercial exchanges between the two countries.
India and France recognized with satisfaction a vibrant educational cooperation within the Governmental framework and amongst Universities and academic institutes and encouraged them to increase the number and quality of student exchanges, with the aim of reaching 10,000 students by 2020. They welcomed the signing of an agreement for the mutual recognition of degrees, which will facilitate the pursuit of higher education by Indian students in France and French students in India and enhance their employability.
The two countries set the target of one million Indian tourists in France and 335,000 French tourists in India by 2020.