NEW DELHI: French defence minister Florence Parley will be here next week to lay the groundwork to further boost the bilateral strategic partnership ahead of President Emmanuel Macron‘s visit to India in December.
France is very keen to hard-sell additional Rafale fighters to India after the IAF inducts the 36 jets being acquired under the Rs 59,000 crore (7.87 billion) mega deal inked in September last year.
The IAF has itself projected the operational need to go in for another 36 Rafales after the first 36 are inducted at the Hasimara (West Bengal) and Ambala (Haryana) airbases from November 2019 to mid-2022,
as was earlier reported by TOI.+
During her visit here on October 27-28, Parley will hold a delegation-level meeting with her counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman on a wide range of issues, including defence projects, maritime security and counter-terrorism, apart from also meeting PM Narendra Modi and others.
Parley will also be travelling to Nagpur to lay the foundation stone for a joint venture facility being set up between Rafale-manufacturer Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence to execute the 50% offsets obligation under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked last year. Sitharaman, however, is unlikely to accompany Parley for the function.
The Modi government had inked the deal for the 36 Rafales, with their weapon packages, associated supplies and logistics, after scrapping the long-pending and deadlocked $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project for 126 fighters on the ground that they were a “critical operational necessity” for the IAF.
France, of course, is also one of the four remaining contenders for Project-75 (India), under which six advanced stealth submarines are to be built here through a collaboration between a foreign ship-builder and an Indian shipyard for an estimated Rs 70,000 crore ($10.9 billion).