India and France on Monday signed 14 agreements, including an intergovernmental > agreement for the purchase of Rafale fighter jets , nuclear reactors, French railway locomotives and a major commitment to counterterror cooperation.
However, while the much-speculated-about Rafale agreement was inked, the financial component of the deal is yet to be finalised, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande disclosed at the end of > their three-hour talks here.
The two leaders came together for their > official bilateral talks a day before participating in the Republic Day parade. “This is the fifth time a French President is going to be our chief guest,” Mr. Modi said, explaining that as India’s first strategic partner, and one of the first civil nuclear partners, “France-India relations have stood every test of time.”
Mr. Hollande, who is accompanied by Energy Minister Segolene Royale and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, said France would “never forget India’s support” after the >terrorist attacks in Paris last year. In a >joint statement , the two sides said they would embark on new ways of cooperation on fighting terrorism, including intelligence-sharing and joint exercises along with the annual strategic dialogues and a joint working group on counterterrorism meetings. They called for “decisive action to be taken against Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda,” urging Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the > Pathankot and > Gurdaspur attacks and the 2008 Mumbai attack, in which two French nationals were among those killed.
India, France set to expland space partnership
At least three of the 14 agreements signed by India and France on Monday were on expanding space collaboration.
The Indian Space Research Organisation and its French counterpart CNES (National Centre for Space Studies) agreed to work together in the next Mars mission, as well as a satellite launch and a thermal infrared observation mission. Under the ‘Make in India’ banner, India and France signed a deal that will allow French industrial major Alstom to make 800 high horse power locomotives in India. The locomotives are expected to be made in the electric locomotives factory in Madhepura, Bihar.
Both sides also signed an agreement on upgrading the Delhi-Chandigarh line to 200 kmph, in keeping with France’s special focus on Chandigarh ‘Smart City’ project.
The broad spectrum covered by the range of agreements marked continuity in bilateral ties, said the former Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran.
“Agreements on nuclear issue, counterterror, defence show a positive continuum of the past work. But the visit obviously highlights the fact that France remains an important interlocutor for India, in the European Union, as India’s position on sensitive issues have often been supported by France even when it faced opposition from other European powers,” said Mr. Saran who oversaw the talks on the India-U.S. nuclear agreement, which paved the way for the India-France civil nuclear deal.
In the joint statement, France also committed itself to supporting India’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and India’s accession to the multilateral (nuclear) export control regimes in 2016 itself. “France has been liberal with technology transfer and its support is crucial for India,” said Mr Saran drawing attention to India’s pursuit of membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and Fissile Material Control Regime (FMCT).