India and France on Thursday concluded negotiations on a $6-billion pact for short range surface to air missiles for use by the Indian Air Force and the Navy even as they made progress on a $10-billion deal for supply of Rafale fighter aircraft to the country.
Announcement on these two major defence deals was made public at the end of talks between visiting French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who noted that the defence ties were poised to reach a ‘qualitatively' new level.
Expressing satisfaction with the progress in defence cooperation, Singh said, "Discussions on the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (Rafale) contract are progressing well. We have also concluded negotiations on the short range surface to air missile, which, once approved by the government, will be co-developed and co-produced in India."
Addressing a press conference later, Hollande assured that the trade will be done by the "rules of the trade and based on competitiveness and fairness, the choice will be made."
"I here take the commitment that nothing contrary to our principles that we share that the trade must be based on the rules of the trade, based on the competitiveness and fairness, that the choice will be made. In the field of corruption, we are vigilant as India is because it is an essential principle," he said and noted that it is because of excellence and efficiency of Rafale and there was no ‘other argument’ in the deal.
He was asked whether he can assure India that there will not be any bribe or middleman involved in one of the biggest defence deals -Rafale- in the backdrop of the scam in supply of Agusta Westland's VVIP helicopters.
After comprehensive talks, the leaders said views were exchanged on a number of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of common interest including defence ties, civil nuclear cooperation, counter-terrorism and situation in Mali.
"President Hollande and I exchanged views on a number of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of common interest. We reviewed progress on the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project and reiterated our commitment to its early implementation as soon as the commercial and technical negotiations, which have made good progress, are completed," Singh said at a joint press event after the talks.
The Rs 30,000 crore worth of SR-SAM project is a co- development joint venture between India and France and would be developed by the MBDA of France and the Defence Research and Development Organisation from the Indian side.
The project often termed as Maitri has been in the making for several years now with the two sides taking a lot of time to agree on the pricing and work share issues.
Asked about the difference between France's relationships with India and China, which also has civil nuclear cooperation with French government, Hollande said, "With China we have cooperation in civil nuclear field but here in India, as I was saying, we have for defence material and defence equipments, (we have) the will to supply our technology in certain conditions without fearing the use that can be made of it.
"We have confidence in India which is a peaceful power and at the same time wishes to defend, control its security and which spends substantial amount of its budget to this end. So, therefore, we must provide as we have always best equipment, material to Indian partner," he said, adding "is there a difference between India and China in the defence equipment field. Yes, because we are not in the same situation."
In the security and counter terrorism fields, India and France are determined to support each other when facing this scourge, a joint statement said.
"The two sides recognised that terrorism poses the main threat to Afghanistan's security and stability, as well as the need for joint concerted efforts and cooperation by countries of the region to effectively counter it, including dismantling terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens beyond Afghanistan's border, disrupting financial and tactical support being provided to terrorist groups," it said.
Both sides agreed that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to expeditiously bring all the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attacks to justice, the statement said.
Both leaders also reiterated their strong support for ongoing efforts aimed at defeating terrorism in Mali, preserving Mali's territorial integrity, re-establishing a fully sovereign democratic government in Mali, and to contributing strongly to Mali's national reconstruction and sustainable economic development.
The leaders also agreed to encourage closer people-to-people contact, through inter alia, easing mobility and human exchanges.
Asked if the issue of turban ban in France was discussed during the meeting, sources refused to comment. Agreeing to promote education, science and cultural cooperation as well as expanding trade and investment, they also decided to promote an ambitious and balanced Free Trade Agreement between India and the European Union-based on reciprocity and mutual benefit which will boost bilateral economic relationship and to establish an annual bilateral dialogue between the two Finance Ministries on economic and financial issues.
Apart from fostering comprehensive sustainable urban development cooperation, including infrastructure, transport, water, waste management as well as urban planning, the two sides decided to facilitate and support investments from French companies into India and Indian companies into France which contribute to growth and employment in both countries.
Cooperation in space and railways and cultural exchanges are among the documents inked between India and France. Under the space cooperation programme, Indian Space Research Organisation and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales have jointly identified the means to pursue further cooperation including possibilities through Missions, Payloads and Applications, exchange of young scientists and professionals in France and in India and conducting thematic workshops.
"France has been a longstanding partner in our space programme. Later this month, ISRO will launch the integrated SARAL satellite carrying the ALTIKA and ARGOS payloads from the French National Space Agency," Singh said.