Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that India presented a major opportunity for the French defense manufacturing industry even as she pitched for greater defense cooperation between India and France for securing both nations interests.
“Indian government’s ‘Make-in-India’ initiative opens doors to not only a huge market but is also an attractive investment destination for defense production and development, including for third country exports,” Sitharaman said while speaking at the Institute of Strategic Research (IRSEM) in Paris.
Sitharaman, who is on an official visit to France from October 10-13, also visited the Dassault Aviation’s factory where Rafale fighter jets are manufactured.
She said that her visit was a reaffirmation of India’s commitment to the strategic partnership with France, especially in the critical areas of defense cooperation.
The Minister said the state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to India in March this year, and the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Paris in June last year have “elevated Indo-French relationship to a new trajectory”.
India has placed an order for 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets in a government-to-government agreement.
The Rs 59,000-crore deal has attracted bitter criticism from the main opposition party back home, the Congress, which has leveled allegation sof corruption and crony capitalism against the Narendra Modi government in the deal.
She underlined that the growing India-France maritime cooperation, especially in the Indian Ocean region, will be crucial in order to preserve the strategic interests, in maintaining the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and for countering maritime terrorism and piracy.
Sitharaman pointed out that both India and France have been victims of terrorism and it was important to put a concerted effort into choking the terror funding and supplies of arms to them.
She appreciated that France was playing a key role in this connection.
She said the continued presence of terrorist infrastructure and state support to terrorists in the immediate neighborhood constantly testing India’s patience.
She said terrorism was a primary security threat with “interplay between states and non-state actors that are often used as proxies” to foment violence worsening the menace.
Sitharaman said the developments in the Middle East were of great significance for India.
“India has key stakes in this region, which accounts for 66 percent of our energy requirements and is home to over eight million Indians. Conflict in this region threatens to expand beyond the internal situation in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya,” she observed.
She said India’s partnership with other countries aims to “contribute towards a more secure, stable and peaceful environment for all” and spur greater prosperity.