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France aspires to be India’s top defence manufacturing partner: Envoy from France Emmanuel Lenain

The ambassador claimed that French and Indian businesses are collaborating on "future equipment," platforms, and engines.

According to French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, France wants to be India’s “best partner” in enhancing its defence industry and has agreed to share the greatest technologies and tools in line with the expanding “trust” between the two parties.

The ambassador said that French and Indian businesses are collaborating on “equipment of the future,” platforms, and engines without providing any further information.

“I do not think any country provides India with the same level of technology. The progress is also due to the fact that we recognise that India wants to boost its strategic autonomy, wants to build its industrial base and we want to be India’s best partner in this move,” he told PTI.

After India and France signed an intergovernmental agreement in September 2016 for the purchase of 36 Rafale planes at an estimated cost of 59,000 crore, Indo-French strategic relations have seen a significant improvement.

“Defence has always been a very strong component of our cooperation because there is a lot of trust between our two countries. When you want to work on these issues, you need trust because you commit yourself for 10, 20, 30 years,” Mr. Lenain said.

“This trust is the main asset that we have. Defence cooperation has been developing very well because we are very comfortable with India and we have decided that we could share our best technology, state-of-the-art equipment, best-in-class technology,” he said.

In light of the shifting geopolitical environment brought on by the Ukraine crisis and the events in the Indo-Pacific area, the two parties are currently considering strengthening their strategic alliance even more.

“From the beginning, we were the best partners in the Make-in-India policy. Now that India is switching to the Atmanirbhar policy, we are also there for India,” Mr. Lenain said. He said France is ready to co-develop equipment with India and share know-how.

“Our companies are working together on the equipment of the future, on engines, on different sorts of equipment. It is very positive for both industries,” he said.

When asked whether France was considering offering the naval version of the fighter to the Indian Navy and whether it was possible for the Indian Air Force to acquire more Rafales, Mr. Lenain opted not to respond directly.

“We are talking, and again, we are very much willing to provide state-of-the-art equipment. Everything is on the table and we do our best,” he said.

With an expenditure of about $305 million, French aerospace giant Safran has already started the process of building its largest maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facility in Hyderabad.

“It is a partnership of equals and it is a partnership to boost each other’s strategic autonomy,” Mr. Lenain said.

While visiting India last month, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna discussed ways to increase defence and security cooperation. Rajnath Singh, the Indian defence minister, stated in December of last year that France had agreed to collaborate with India to produce aircraft engines.

In order to promote collaborative ventures between a select group of private Indian enterprises and international defence majors to manufacture military equipment like submarines and fighter jets in India, India introduced the ambitious strategic partnership (SP) concept in 2017.

Through collaborative ventures between Indian corporates and international defence companies, the SP model seeks to establish a thriving defence manufacturing ecosystem in the nation.

In the recent years, the government has launched a number of initiatives to increase local defence manufacture.

According to its goal of supporting local defence manufacture, the Defence Ministry stated in March that it intends to purchase military equipment worth 5 lakh crore from domestic companies over the course of the following five to seven years.

One of the biggest international arm importers has been India. The Indian armed services are anticipated to spend close to $130 billion (one billion is equal to 100 crores) on capital purchases over the following five years.

The government has chosen to boost indigenous defence industry in an effort to lessen reliance on imported military platforms.

The Defence Ministry has set a target of $25 billion (1.75 lakh crore) in defence manufacturing revenue over the next five years, including a $5 billion military hardware export target.

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