India, France set to co-develop jet engine

On July 13, the Defence Acquisition Council accorded preliminary approval for the procurement of 26 Rafale-M fighters to operate off India’s aircraft carriers and three additional Scorpene-class diesel-electric submarines from France.

July 15, 2023 12:47 am | Updated 09:49 am IST - PARIS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron address a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 14, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron address a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 14, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Taking the defence cooperation between India and France to a new level, the two countries announced that they will extend their “ground-breaking” defence cooperation in advanced aeronautical technologies by supporting the joint development of a combat aircraft engine and also an engine for the Indian multi-role helicopter (IMRH) being designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

This is among the several announcements made by the two sides on the defence front. Both also announced cooperation on small and advanced modular reactors, adoption of a road map for joint actions in the Indo-Pacific, finalisation of the joint Earth observation satellite, and simplification of visa requirements for students among others.

“A road map on this project will be prepared between Safran and DRDO before the end of this year,” the joint statement issued after bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron said. “They also support industrial cooperation for motorization of heavy-lift helicopters under the IMRH programme with Safran Helicopter Engine, France. To enable progress on the IMRH programme, a Shareholders’ Agreement between HAL, India and Safran Helicopter Engine, France has been concluded for engine development.”

PM Modi in France | Updates

These ventures are in line with the spirit of trust that prevails between India and France in the sharing and joint development of critical components and technology building blocks, based on the successful Indo-French experience in technology transfer, the statement said.

Last month, HAL and General Electric General Electric signed an MoU to potentially manufacture the F-414 engine for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft-MK2 subject to licence approval from the U.S. Congress. India has been looking for a more powerful engine to power the fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) under development.

“Defence cooperation has been a strong pillar of our ties. It is a symbol of deep mutual trust between the two countries. France is an important partner in Make in India and self-reliant India,” Mr. Modi said at the joint press statement along with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the bilateral talks at Elysee Palace.

On Thursday, the Defence Acquisition Council had accorded preliminary approval for the procurement of 26 Rafale-M fighters to operate off India’s aircraft carriers and three additional Scorpene-class diesel-electric submarines from France.

The two leaders also welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Mazgon Dockyard Ltd., Mumbai and Naval Group for the construction of three additional Scorpene submarines. “India and France are ready to explore more ambitious projects to develop the Indian submarine fleet and its performance,” the statement said.

Further, other defence industrial partnership initiatives are a contract being concluded between Safran and HAL for the “Transfer of Technology of Forging and Castings” for the Shakti Engine which powers HAL-built helicopters. “Another MoU between Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd. (GRSE), and Naval Group France, a leader in European Naval Defence Industry, to collaborate in the field of surface ship that caters to fulfil the requirement of India and International Naval forces” was also signed, the joint statement stated.

Both countries are also working towards adopting a road map on Defence Industrial Cooperation and in view of the uptick in defence industrial collaborations India is setting up a Technical Office of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at its embassy in Paris, the statement said.

Bastille Day parade

Referring to the Bastille Day parade where he was the chief guest, Mr. Modi said we all saw the fly-past of Indian Rafale jets, while an Indian Navy ship was also present in a port of France while contingents all three Services marched.

Mr. Macron too talked of the long history of Indian troops in both the World Wars. “I was proud to see the Punjab Regiment here in the heart of Paris,” he said.

He said the two countries have identified new areas of cooperation - steel, space, energy, and civil nuclear - and also announced liberalisation of visa systems for students which was welcomed by Mr. Modi. The French President also talked of sending more French students to India, with the target being 30,000 by 2030.

On the global situation, Mr. Modi said the effects of the COVID pandemic and the Ukraine conflict have been felt across the globe. “They have had a particularly negative impact on the countries of the Global South. It’s a matter on concern. We believe that dialogue and diplomacy should be used to resolve all issues.”

“In the war against terrorism, India and France have always been together. We believe that strong actions are needed to stop cross-border terrorism, and both the nations have agreed to enhance co-operation in this direction,” the PM said.

Stating that India and France have a special responsibility in maintaining peace and tranquillity in the Indo-Pacific region, the PM said, “As resident powers of Indo-Pacific region, India and France working on Indo-Pacific cooperation road map.”

After taking part in the Bastille Day parade, PM Modi attended lunch hosted by the President of National Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet at her official residence. “Discussions covered issues related to Parliamentary cooperation between the two countries and the areas of bilateral ties including trade, economy, technology, culture and environment. The two leaders highlighted shared values of democracy, liberty, equality and fraternity between the two countries. French side expressed admiration for vast electoral process in India,” spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.

Later Mr. Modi met with prominent personalities both from France and of Indian origin. This included Charlotte Chopin who began practising yoga at the age of 50. She’s going to turn 100 soon but her passion towards yoga and fitness has only increased over the years, Mr. Modi said on Twitter. Others include Thomas Pasquet, renowned French astronaut, pilot and actor, and Leena Nair, global CEO of luxury brand Chanel. On the meeting with Ms. Nair, Mr. Modi tweeted, “It’s always a delight to meet a person of Indian origin who has made a mark at the world stage. We had a great conversation about ways to further boost skill development among artisans and to make Khadi more popular.”

After the bilateral talks, PM Modi and President Macron attended the CEOs forum followed by a banquet dinner in Louvre. Mr. Modi departed for Abu Dhabi just past midnight.

Mr. Modi also said the two countries had agreed to launch India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) in France. In civil nuclear cooperation, Mr. Modi said the two countries are discussing small, advanced modular reactors. “We are looking to increase cooperation between our defence space agencies,” he said also talking of cooperation in space-based maritime domain awareness.

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