Submarine deal with India could become a flagship project, says German Defence Minister

Rajnath invites German companies to invest in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu defence corridors and bring Indian firms into the picture to strengthen their supply chain

Updated - June 06, 2023 11:40 pm IST

Published - June 06, 2023 11:37 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a bilateral meeting with German Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius, in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a bilateral meeting with German Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius, in New Delhi on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: ANI

India and Germany discussed the progress of a deal for the procurement of six advanced conventional submarines by the Indian Navy under Project-75I, visiting German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on his talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh while making a strong pitch for German company Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

Seeking concrete cooperation projects, he said the submarine deal could become a “flagship project” while stating they want to intensify military cooperation with the other branches of the Navy and the Air Force as a whole.

Also Read | India’s dependence on Russian weapons is not in Germany’s long-term interest: Boris Pistorius

On Tuesday, the two Ministers held talks during which Mr. Singh called for German investments in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu defence corridors. This is the first visit of a German Defence Minister to India since 2015.

Six submarines

“We are talking about a deal by TKMS, about six submarines, but of course, the procedure is not finished yet but I think the German industry is at a good place in the race,” Mr. Pistorius said speaking to accompanying German media in Delhi. “The German defence industry, especially manufacturers, has an excellent reputation. But, of course, there are competitors, and that’s no secret. And it will be a question of who will prevail. It’s the same with us. And the armaments companies too.”

Further, he said they support the “Make in India” initiative and it has to be organised in cooperation between companies on both sides. “Of course, my role is not that I sign contracts or bring them with me, but that I say that we, as the Federal Government, support the work of our defence industry and we will continue to do so in the future,” he stated adding that his impression is that their position can be rated as quite promising.

The P-75I deal did come up during the discussion between the two Ministers with Mr. Pistorius making a pitch for German submarines, sources in the know said. As reported by The Hindu earlier, Germany is looking to present a formal Government-to-Government proposal to India for sale of submarines under P-75I.

Germany likely to win deal

Only Germany and South Korea technically meet the criteria to submit bids under P-75I expected to cost over ₹45,000 crore, the deadline for which has seen several extensions. However, it has been learnt that Daewoo has internal administrative issues due to which it could end up as a single vendor situation. MDL along with Larsen & Toubro have been shortlisted to partner with foreign submarine manufacturers to manufacture six advanced conventional submarines for the Indian Navy under Project-75I that has been stuck for a while.

As reported earlier, TKMS which was initially in talks with L&T for a partnership under P-75I, recently decided to partner with MDL to bid for the deal. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for this is likely to be signed on June 07. Mr. Pistorius is scheduled to visit MDL as well as the Western Naval Command in Mumbai.

Supply chain

On the discussions between the two Ministers, defence sources said the issue of global supply chain disruptions was discussed and the Indian side asked the German side to to diversify their supply chains to stable and open countries like India.

“India asked Germany to relax some of their licensing requirements for export of spares and components under BAFA [Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control]. A list was submitted to the German side in this regard,” a defence source said. It was stressed that Germany should treat India as a privileged partner, the source said.

Mr. Singh said that Indian defence industry could participate in the supply chains of German defence industry and add value to the ecosystem, besides contributing to supply chain resilience, according to a Defence Ministry statement. “India’s skilled workforce and competitive costs along with Germany’s high technologies and investment can further strengthen ties,” he said.

Four-day visit

The German Minister arrived in India on a four-day visit on June 05. He laid a wreath at the National War Memorial and inspected a tri-service guard of honour. Later that day, Mr. Pistorius interacted with some Indian defence start-ups at Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, in an event organised by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX).

“The event included a briefing on iDEX followed by showcasing of game-changing technologies by Indian start-ups on augmented reality/virtual reality, energy systems, smart drones and anti-drone systems, space propulsion systems and other allied technologies,” the Defence Ministry said. The visiting Minister was also briefed on the growth of India’s defence innovation ecosystem through the iDEX scheme and opportunities for collaboration in global emerging technology sectors.

Other issues highlighted include the need to enhance defence-industrial cooperation, technology partnerships, long-term research & development and improving supply chain security, the Ministry said. “The event also brought into focus the promotion of co-development and co-production in India, including potential areas and projects where Indian and German start-ups can work together,” it added.

Indo-Pacific

Talking to German media on his discussions with Mr. Singh, Mr. Pistorius said they were in agreement about the German and European role in the Indo-Pacific.

“I think we should, and we can and we ought to do more in that region in partnership with India, because we can’t really predict what’s going to happen in the next few years. And we need strategic partners like Indonesia, like India, for example, especially, to make sure that free navigation, and free trading routes can be achieved over the next decade,” he said.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday, Mr. Pistorius announced that Germany will send two warships to the Indo-Pacific in 2024. He stated that countries need to stand up for the rules-based international order and the protection of major maritime passages, Reuters has reported.

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