Big-ticket defence deals likely during PM Modi’s Paris visit

PM Modi will be in France on July 13 and 14 as both sides are in talks for Rafale-M fighters, Scorpene submarines and 5th Gen engines for AMCA aircraft

July 13, 2023 12:00 am | Updated July 14, 2023 11:08 am IST - NEW DELHI/PARIS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron have maintained close contact since they first met in June 2017. File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron have maintained close contact since they first met in June 2017. File | Photo Credit: AFP

PM Modi in France

As the India-France strategic partnership hits the quarter-century mark, it has been given “strong guidance” by the “common vision” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said on Wednesday, ahead of Mr. Modi’s two-day visit to France, starting July 13.

Mr. Modi’s schedule in Paris includes interactions with the French President and other leading figures in the French government and business world, with the high point being the Bastille Day military parade, where he will be the chief guest.

“India and France have a long standing strategic partnership which actually captures the series of strategic convergences that both countries have on a range of issues. This year marks the 25th anniversary of our strategic partnership. There are several pillars of our strategic partnership and each of these pillars would come up for stock taking under the bilateral talks that the two leaders would hold,” Mr. Kwatra said, laying out the broader strategic backdrop.

Military cooperation

The PM’s visit to France is being interpreted as a step towards closer military cooperation between the two countries, as India is gearing up to acquire 26 new Rafale-M fighter jets that will fit into India’s maritime military plans. The Rafale-M proposal was cleared by the Defence Procurement Board in the run-up to the visit, and the Defence Acquisition Council — the highest decision-making body on procurement in the Defence Ministry — is expected to review it at a meeting on Thursday.

There are several other defence deals in the pipeline which could see movement during Mr. Modi’s visit, including a proposal to buy three more Scorpene-class conventional submarines for the Navy, and a plan to jointly develop fighter jet engines to power fifth-generation advanced medium combat aircraft, and the twin-engine deck-based fighter to operate from carriers.

The two delegations will discuss cooperation on civil nuclear issues, space, cyber security technology, counter terrorism, climate change, renewable energy, and the international solar alliance. “Reorientation of our security partnership in line with AtmanirbharBharat [Self-reliant India] objectives, supply chain integration between the industry and business segments of the two countries would all form part of discussions under the bilateral talks between the two leaders,” Mr. Kwatra said, describing economic ties between India and France as being in a state of “robust upswing”.

Bastille Day participation

“As part of our participation in the Bastille Day celebrations, a large tri-services contingent from India will also participate in the Bastille Day parade, along with three Indian Air Force aircraft which would also take part in the fly past,” he added. Marching contingents of the three services and a military band of 242 personnel will take part in the parade. Each service contingent will include 68 personnel, while the military band has 38. Indigenous stealth destroyer INS Chennai arrived in France on Wednesday, coinciding with the French national day.

Upon arrival in Paris at mid-day on Thursday, Mr. Modi’s first meeting will be with French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, after which he will meet with the President of the French Senate, Gérard Larcher. He will attend an interaction with members of the Indian community on Thursday evening, which will be followed by a private dinner to be hosted at the Elysee Palace by Mr. Macron.

Ukraine crisis talks

Mr. Modi and Mr. Macron have maintained close contact since they first met in June 2017. More recently, both sides have held discussions on a solution to the crisis in Ukraine, which is expected to form the backdrop of the interaction between the two delegations. The Paris visit comes just months after the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima on May 20.

Though Paris and several other major French cities have recently experienced serious anti-police riots, Mr. Kwatra said that the shadow of the riots would not fall on Mr. Modi’s visit.

Mr. Modi’s schedule for July 14 includes a meeting with the President of the French National Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet. “The visit of the Prime Minister to France would be both rich in substance and also in form and we believe that it will set up new benchmarks in our strategic partnerships in the years ahead,” Mr. Kwatra said.

UAE visit

Following the visit to Paris, Mr. Modi is scheduled to arrive in the United Arab Emirates on July 15 where he is expected to meet President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, followed by a ceremonial welcome and bilateral talks. The UAE and India concluded a comprehensive economic partnership agreementin February 2022, which has given a new dimension to the close partnership between the two countries. The UAE is a “guest country” at the G-20 summit to be hosted in Delhi in September.

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