Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Wednesday (local time) that India and France have a strong strategic and defence connection, and that defence cooperation between the two nations is in keeping with “our own home strategy of Atmanirbharta (self-reliance).”
The Foreign Secretary made the statements during a press conference following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bilateral and delegation-level discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron.
In response to a question about probable agreements reached during talks on the French fighter plane Rafale’s continued upgrade and orders, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson replied that the conversations did not necessarily involve individual platforms.
“What you need to understand is that when the two strategic partners communicate, it covers the topic in a format that isn’t always centred on transactions on individual platforms,” Foreign Secretary Kwatra explained.
Further discussing India-France defence cooperation, the Foreign Secretary stated that the two nations “are very strong strategic partners, as well as having a very strong defence partnership.”
“In the case of our two countries, the framework of defence relationship is defined not just by commerce in different platforms, but also by co-development, co-designing, and co-manufacturing,” Kwatra added.
“This is also very much in keeping with our own Atmanirbharta domestic strategy, which of course extends quite significantly in the realm of defence,” he continued.
The joint statement issued by India and France at the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s tour also mentioned France’s increased participation in “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India).
“The two sides enjoy synergy in the sphere of defence, as seen by the timely delivery of the Rafale despite the pandemic,” the joint statement stated.
“Taking this momentum forward, and based on their mutual trust,” the statement continued, “both sides agreed to find innovative ways for France’s deeper involvement in the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-reliant India) efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing, and exports, including encouraging increased industry to industry partnerships.”
In the joint statement, both sides praised the “ongoing intense collaboration across all defence domains.”
In response to another query about the prospect of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) co-producing Rafale aircraft with France in India, Foreign Secretary Kwatra said he couldn’t comment precisely on that, but that there are many alternatives.
“Look, it’s a very big scope, and it’s a very vast field of substance, and anything can be discussed and is doable in terms of what two countries may eventually agree to co-produce,” Kwatra said.
“So, I don’t have a really particular response for you,” he said, “but I believe it encompasses many options.”
PM Modi made the remarks on the penultimate day of his three-day European tour, during which he visited Germany and Denmark before stopping in Paris for a brief stopover.
“As always, it’s a pleasure to see President @EmmanuelMacron. We chatted for a long time about bilateral and global matters. India and France are proud development partners, with ties spanning a variety of fields “PM Modi spoke on his encounters with French President Emmanuel Macron.
PM Modi departed for India on Wednesday after wrapping up his commitments in Paris (local time).