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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 82

Some progress in India buying French Rafale

By Malladi Rama Rao
New Delhi, 01 July (

On Monday when India launched a French satellite, the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius held talks with Indian foreign and defence ministers on bilateral strategic partnership, and pushed for early purchase of the multi-billion dollar Rafale combat aircraft. Space, civil and nuclear energy cooperation, defence and counter-terrorism were the focus areas of India- France cooperation.

Estimated to be around Rs. 60,000 crore, the Rafale deal has been on the agenda for the past two years but little headway has been made in finalising the contract firstly because of policy administrative paralysis that became the hallmark of the Congress-led UPA government and secondly because of the then defence minister AK Antony was wary of big ticket deals fearing the stink of bribery scams. For the record however it is said that negotiations over pricing and work-sharing aspects had delayed the Rafale buy.

Mr Fabius said that the combat aircraft deal was “developing positively”, and that he was confident of a “swift final” outcome.

France, the visiting minister said, hopes that with the Modi government, which is keen on efficiency, the implementation of the decision will be swift and expressed confidence of a “positive outcome” to the ongoing negotiations between Indian Defence Ministry and the French firm Dassault Aviation.

The first top French functionary to come here after Modi government assumed office, Fabius said Rafale meets all the requirements of India, including cutting-edge technology and highest quality.

On the first day of his four-day visit, the French minister met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Arun Jaitley, who is due to present the first budget of the Modi government in less than a fortnight. Indications are that Jaitley would hike the outlays for defence and pave the way for large dose of FDI into defence manufacturing units.

France has been a partner in India’s nuclear programme for power generation. It is keen to get a slice of the nuclear pie in the big ticket N-reactors programme India is taking up. Unlike the Americans and the Russians, the French donot appear to have any problems with India’s nuclear liability laws.

“No particular problem” said Fabius when asked whether the French companies have concerns over India’s nuclear liability law.

Fielding a question on the subject, the Indian foreign office spokesman said: “Civil nuclear cooperation is a pillar of our bilateral strategic partnership and this was discussed. Both sides reiterated their commitment to proceeding with the Jaitapur nuke plant.”

Excerpts from the briefing

Obviously since today was an important day in terms of space, much of the discussion was focussed on that aspect of our relationship. Those of you who follow space are, perhaps, aware that our relationship with France in terms of space goes back to early 1970s. At that time, Indian satellites were being launched using French launch vehicles. Today, it’s a changed scenario. India is launching French satellites. This is the second satellite that we launched. Also, we are co-working with France and co-producing satellites. Those of you, who are familiar with this issue, are aware that previously we have co-produced 2 satellites with France. These are SARAL and Megha Tropiques. So, that area of our common endeavour was a major area of discussion. In addition, of course, we discussed other aspects which I have listed out to you. If any of you are interested, I will then try and respond to those questions.

Apart from bilateral aspects, when Foreign Ministers meet, it’s normal that they discuss issues relating to regional areas of cooperation as well as possibilities of understanding each other’s view on international issues and therefore, those elements, too, were discussed. In brief, if I have to sum up, the discussions were spread over about 3 hours or so; they were comprehensive; they touched on a variety of bilateral, regional and international issues.

Question: Did the both Foreign Ministers discuss about the civil nuclear cooperation? The French company AREVA is engaged in talks with Indian government to have nuclear plants in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. Whether this particular topic came in for discussion? And whether there are any details available on this?

Official Spokesperson: Yes, obviously when India and France discuss, Civil Nuclear Cooperation is a pillar of our bilateral strategic partnership and this was discussed. Both sides reiterated their commitment to proceed with the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant. They also agreed that it is best for the experts to deal with the techno-commercial aspects of this major project which both India and France are committed as a long term project between the two countries.

Question: Did the French Minister raise any issue on concerns relating to Nuclear Liability Law?

Official Spokesperson: Look, as I said, the discussion was at the political level and the political level was a reiteration of the commitment in terms of both sides, since there is a new government in India, reiteration of the commitment that Nuclear Energy will form a major component of our energy mix and therefore an understanding and a clarification and elaboration of our approach to Civil Nuclear Energy. And after that they agreed that it is best for the techno-commercial aspects to be handled by those concerned experts because neither are the two Ministers expert in these aspects that you are dealing with. So, it was agreed that it was for AREVA and for NPCIL to handle these issues.

Question: In context of Jaitapur, did this larger policy issue of EPR technology come up, specifically, in the sense that not a single nuclear reactor anywhere in the world, based on EPR technology, is operational; not even in France?

Official Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think this issue came up, but there are several reactors which are in the process of being built. There is Flamanville in France; there is also in Finland and there is in China. So there are 3 reactors currently being built in different continents using the same technology.

Question: Was there any discussion on the Iraq crisis also?

Official Spokesperson: Yes, when we discussed regional issues this did figure in the context of regional issues.

- Asian Tribune -

Sushma Swaraj meets French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her French counterpart Laurent Fabius in New Delhi
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