• Sunday, May 22, 2022

INDIA

France offers more Rafale fighter planes to India

India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (R) greets his French counterpart Florence Parly during an official welcoming ceremony in New Delhi on December 17, 2021. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

FRENCH defence minister Florence Parly on Friday (17) said her country is willing to give more Rafale fighter planes to India.

Responding to a query in New Delhi, she said, “France is ready to answer any additional needs or request that can be made by India….we are open and ready to provide any other Rafale if this is India’s decision.”

The inter-governmental agreement for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft by India in flying condition was signed in New Delhi on September 23, 2016.

Thirty-three of those have been delivered while three are set to be delivered by April next year.

Parly had visited India in September last year when she took part in the ceremony to formally induct five Rafale jets in the Indian forces at the Ambala airbase in the northern state of Haryana.

Parly said, “Very happy that Indian Air force is satisfied with its Rafale and we are very proud that despite Covid-19 the 36 aircraft will be delivered on time, according to the contract. It’s a real achievement and I was lucky enough to attend the ceremony in September last, induction of the first aircraft with the Indian Air Force. It will be a real asset for our bilateral cooperation, using the same aircraft is real asset and strength. I am sure that there is room for new developments.”

During her visit, Parly was set to hold talks with her Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh as part of the annual defence dialogue.

The two nations hold a ministerial-level defence dialogue annually since 2018.

Parly was also asked about the recent AUKUS pact between Australia, the UK and the US which left French upset as they lost a big submarine deal to the US and they felt humiliated for allegedly being kept in the dark about what the other three nations were planning.

Australia had initially sought conventionally powered submarines from France and the two countries had signed a contract in 2016. But Canberra later changed its mind and decided to go for nuclear-powered submarines to deal with threats from China.

When asked about Australia’s changed stance and the French engagement in the Indo-Pacific, Parly said, “The geography will not change. France is an Indo-Pacific country…We want to develop very close multilateral relations…India is at the centre of this strategy. We had developed very good relations with Australia, then Australia made its decision. Won’t comment on that. It is very disappointing for us, but will continue to be a major partner for all countries who want to develop the same strategy for the region.”

The AUKUS development also saw an emerging India-France-Australia trilateral losing momentum although French president Emmanuel Macron has reiterated his country’s friendship with India.

Eastern Eye

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