NEW DELHI — Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held talks with her French counterpart Florence Parly in the national capital Oct. 27 and reviewed initiatives to enhance bilateral defense cooperation.
An official statement from the Defense Ministry said the two ministers "reviewed ongoing initiatives to further strengthen bilateral defense cooperation as a key pillar of the strategic partnership between India and France."
A slew of issues, including ongoing defense deals, such as the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets; industrial and technological partnerships under the Make in India initiative; regional security including terrorism; and the overall global security scenario figured in the talks.
With the Chinese Navy increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean region, defense operational cooperation, especially in the field of maritime security and joint exercises between the armed forces, were among the issues in focus.
"Recognizing the growing significance of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific and the need for greater maritime domain awareness, India and France will further expand information sharing arrangements building upon the Technical Arrangement on Exchange of White Shipping information signed earlier this year," the statement said.
"A range of measures to expand military-to-military ties, including enhancing the scope of their joint exercises, in particular the Varuna naval exercise scheduled in early 2018, were agreed upon. Both countries will also actively explore additional measures to facilitate operational-level interactions between their respective armed forces," the statement said.
The ministers reiterated their strong intention to further expand bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism.
They also "comprehensively reviewed" developments in defense equipment and industry cooperation, where France is a major partner. They agreed to strongly support projects for defense manufacturing under the Make in India initiative as well as promote defense technology and research and development cooperation, the statement added.
The possibility of another deal for an additional 36 Rafale jets for India is expected to have figured in the talks, though there was no official confirmation.
On Oct. 27 morning, Parly paid tribute at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at Indian Gate, and was accorded a Guard of Honor in the lawns of South Block, which houses the Defense Ministry.
A statement from the French Embassy Oct. 26 called India the "foremost Asian strategic partner" and said the minister's visit was aimed at strengthening all aspects of France's fast-developing defense cooperation with India.
Parly then went to Nagpur Oct. 27 evening, where she participated in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited by its joint promoters, along with Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani and Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier.
DRAL will be part of the upcoming Aerospace Park in Nagpur and plans to develop an indigenous value-added supply chain, thereby building a strong base for the success of the Rafale program under the Make in India initiative.
On Oct. 28, Parly will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for wide-ranging talks ahead of President Emmanuel Macron's state visit. She will also meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
She will also visit the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai, were the Scorpene submarines are being made, and also visit the Western Naval Command.
The Scorpene submarines are being built with a transfer of technology under the P75 project by MDL, in collaboration with French shipbuilding major, Naval Group (formerly DCNS).
She will also board the INS Kalvari, the first of the six Scorpene submarines to have been delivered to the Indian Navy.