India and France on Thursday concluded negotiations on the Short Range Surface to Air Missile nearly worth of $6 billion during the talks between French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also said talks on $10-billion deal for Rafale fighter aircraft are “progressing well”.
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.
Observing that India is Hollande’s first Asian destination for a bilateral trip, Singh said this demonstrates the importance of this relationship between the two countries.
“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,” Dr Singh said at a joint press event after the talks.
Expressing satisfaction with the progress in defence cooperation, Dr Singh said, “Discussions on the MMRCA 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,” while noting that the defence ties were poised to reach a qualitatively new level.
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 MBDA of France and DRDO from the Indian side. The surface to air missile defence system would be deployed by the IAF and the Navy.
Hollande, also accompanied by a large contingent of French business leaders, including Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier, whose company is hoping to seal the deal to sell 126 Rafale warplanes to India in the world’s biggest defence contract currently under negotiation.
On his part, Hollande said he has come to take the Indo-French strategic partnership to “yet another level” while noting that the defence cooperation reflects India’s trust for French technology and France’s trust for use of technology by India. “India is a country of peace”, the French President added.
The two sides also inked four pacts, including one in the field of railways.
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 [ Images ] 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 and promoting 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 EU 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.
Long-term space cooperation and cultural exchanges are among the four documents inked between India and France.
Under the space cooperation programme, ISRO and CNES 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.