Strategic Dialogue between NSAs in New Delhi, a quick follow-up to Summit talks between Modi and Macron in Paris
A Strategic Dialogue between the Indian and French National Security Advisers in New Delhi on August 29, sought to take forward quickly the proposals put on the table to scale up Defence and Strategic sector cooperation between the two sides.
The meeting in New Delhi between India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his visiting French counterpart Emmanuel Bonne took place exactly a week after the Summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
While there was no official statement on the Strategic Dialogue on August 29, sources suggested that the purpose was to give quick momentum to implementation of the Summit outcomes and proposals, with particular focus on defence, nuclear energy, space, cyber security, counter-terrorism and Indo-Pacific partnership.
A widely reported proposal relates to the French offer for a second batch of 36 Rafale fighters at an estimated cost of about 6 billion Euros. The first contract for 36 flyaway, Made in France Rafales in 2016 was signed for 7.8 billion Euros and generated a lot of political controversy in India. The second batch is on offer cheaper mainly because the cost of India Specific Enhancements and creation of infrastructure in India will not have to be incurred again.
The Indian Air Force (IAF), which is at least 10 squadrons short of the authorised fighter strength of 42 squadrons, and faces the prospect of further depletion of its ageing fleet, seeks quick replenishment, even if in part, particularly in the context of hightened military challenges.
Bonne, the Foreign Policy Advisor to President Macron, also reportedly sought renewed momentum to several stalled or ongoing procurements involving the Airbus C295 transport aircraft for the IAF – and possibly the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Navy too – the A330 for the IAF’s Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and AWACS requirements, the AS565 MBe Panther and H145 for the Naval Utility Helicopter programme and the H225M for the ICG.
Bonne also called on Prime Minister Modi during his short visit to New Delhi. The French agenda also includes the building of what will be the world’s largest nuclear power plant at Jaitapur in Rajasthan, and, as first reported by SP’s Naval Forces, the offer of cooperation in the Indian programme to build six nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN).
The joint statement released after the Summit meeting on August 22 emphasised reaffirmation of the “commitment to further strengthen cooperation in defence industry field and extended their support to existing and upcoming partnerships between the defence companies of the two countries in the spirit of ‘Make in India’ and for the mutual benefit of both countries.”
“Both sides noted with satisfaction that Indian MSMEs are increasingly becoming part of global supply chains of French Defence and Aerospace OEMs and reaffirmed to give further impetus to this trend. They welcomed the ongoing collaboration between aerospace and defence industrial associations of both countries, SIDM for India and GIFAS for France,” the statement added.
The two leaders had also expressed satisfaction on the implementation of the 2016 Rafale contract, ahead of the first lot scheduled of the French fighters slated to be handed over to the IAF on schedule on September 19.
Another French priority is to project itself as a big player in the Indo-Pacific, with India as its key partner. It has also announced the appointment of a liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at Gurugram.
The French proposal reportedly includes 12 satellites for monitoring the Indian Ocean region.
The agenda for space cooperation includes the training of medical support personnel for Indian ‘Gagannauts’ for the manned space mission in 2022.
“The leaders welcomed signing of an Implementing Arrangement for establishment of a framework for the realisation of joint maritime domain awareness mission. They also hailed the launch of a Space Climate Observatory that further enhances Indo-French cooperation on combating climate change, besides TRISHNA joint mission and accommodating Argos in Oceansat 3. In an increasingly threatened environment, they have also resolved to act together at the international level to promote norms and best practices necessary for guaranteeing the safety of space missions,” the Summit joint statement added.