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India, France review defence deals

Posted on Feb 14, 07:06PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Feb 14 : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said India and France are reviewing pending defence deals, including a USD12bn deal to purchase 126 Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) from France.

In a statement to the media during the State Visit of French President Francois Hollande to India, Singh said: "We expressed satisfaction with the progress in our defence cooperation, which is poised to reach a qualitatively new level."

"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," said the PM.

"There is a welcome shift from defence trade to co-development and co-production of advanced defence items in India, which will help expand our domestic production base and strengthen the India-France strategic partnership," he said.

"We also agreed to further strengthen our counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation," he said.

Singh said India and France will strengthen its cooperation in space programmes.

"France has been a longstanding partner in our space programme. In Septermber 2012, I was happy to witness ISRO's 100th mission, which successfully put a French satellite in orbit. Later this month, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) will launch the integrated SARAL satellite carrying the ALTIKA and ARGOS payloads from the French National Space Agency," he said.

The PM said he and Hollande also discussed new opportunities in trade and investment between the two countries.

"A Broad-based India-EU Trade and Investment Agreement, currently under negotiation, would open new opportunities for trade and investment between our two countries. I have requested President Hollande's support in ensuring an early conclusion of a balanced and mutually beneficial Agreement," he said.

Singh said India has signed a new cultural pact with France.

"Culture is as strong a binding force as any between India and France. The second edition of "Bonjour India" is being organized currently in India. The new Cultural Exchange Programme that was signed today and the decision by French film festivals, including the Cannes festival, to celebrate the centenary of Indian cinema will further strengthen our cultural relations," the PM said.

The PM further said: "President Hollande and I also had productive discussions on regional and global issues. France and India share similar worldviews on many issues, including on the need to stabilize the global economy and combat terrorism."

"We also discussed the situation in Mali. As part of our support to the Malian defence forces and the African-led International Support Mission, India has announced an assistance of 1 million US dollars at the Donors Conference held recently in Addis Ababa," he said.

Hollande arrived here on Thursday for a two-day visit at the invitation of Singh.

He is accompanied by his partner Valerie Trierweiler, a high-level delegation including several key Ministers of his Cabinet, senior officials, business-persons and media.

He was given a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He is then visiting Raj Ghat to pay homage to the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi.