On the second day of French President Francois Hollande’s ongoing three-day visit to India, New Delhi signed an inter-governmental pact with Paris to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets. However, the two countries are yet to sort out details of the USD 9 billion deal, as they require some more time to resolve outstanding issues, like the pricing and post-sales servicing.
During their talks in New Delhi on Monday morning, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Hollande decided to give more time to Rafale-manufacturer Dassault Aviation and senior Indian officials to decide on the pricing. Speaking at a joint press conference, Prime Minister Modi said: “France is a special friend. Eighteen years ago, France was the first country we signed a strategic partnership with. We are now here to take it higher.”
For his part, the visiting president stressed that Paris would help New Delhi quickly upgrade its mostly Soviet-era military equipment (which could cost around USD 150 billion) mainly to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region. Finance Minister Michel Sapin, too, assured India that French companies would invest USD 10 billion in the South Asian country over the next five years. “Over the last five years, French companies have invested more than USD 1 billion per year in India. We estimate that they will continue to invest at least USD 10 billion over the next five years. The majority of these investments are meant for the industrial sector, which makes France the major player in Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ programme,” he told the Indian media.
Earlier on Sunday, the two friendly nations signed 16 agreements on comprehensive and multi-sectoral partnership. In the presence of President Hollande and PM Modi, senior Indian and French officials signed business, trade and other accords in Chandigarh. Later, the two leaders attended India-France Business Summit the northern Indian city.
Prime Minister Modi, who broke protocol to welcome President Hollande at the airport, said that both India and France had huge potential to jointly work in different fields. Modi further said: “We want to work closely with France. The world has accepted India as a good investment destination. India’s talent and the manufacturing (skills) of France can achieve a lot. The trust and friendship with France is an asset for us.” He expressed hope that the two countries would collaborate for economic benefits as well.
As far as terrorism is concerned, the Indian premier once again reiterated New Delhi’s commitment to fighting terror, saying that India and France stand united against enemies of humanity. In the presence of President Hollande, Modi told the audience that both countries have been victims of terror attacks and need to work together to prevent similar strikes in the future. “The day when Paris was hit by terror attacks, I had decided that the guest at Republic Day parade must be from France. France has shown the way of combating terrorism without deviating from its principles and journey of progress,” added the premier.
Meanwhile, President Hollande requested India to resume Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the European Union (EU) as early as possible. He said it is unfortunate that the negotiations for the FTA, officially dubbed as Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), have been held up since May 2013. At the same time, he expressed hope that both the sides would bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector, in near future.
The main aim of the FTA is to reduce or significantly eliminate tariffs on goods, facilitating trade in services and boosting investments between the two sides. The two-way commerce in goods between India and the 28-member European bloc was USD 98.5 billion in 2014-15, while the trade volume between India and France stood at USD 9.37 billion during this period.