On October 10, 2018, Defence Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman started her maiden 3-day official visit to France till October 12, 2018.
- This is her maiden official visit to France.
- She participated in the 1st India-France Ministerial level annual defence dialogue in Paris.
- She held bilateral talks with her French Counterpart.
- She visited the Rafale manufacturing facility of Dassault amid controversy.
- She spoke at the Institute of Strategic Research (IRSEM) in Paris.
Arrival at France:
On October 10, 2018, Defence Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman commenced her 3-day official visit to France on the invitation of French Defence Minister Ms Florence Parly.
Attending the first India-France Ministerial level annual defence dialogue:
On October 11, 2018, Defence Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman participated in the first India-France Ministerial level annual defence dialogue.
i. She was accompanied by her French counterpart, the Minister for the Armed Forces Ms. Florence Parly.
ii. During the dialogue, the following happened:
- Reviewed on bilateral defence cooperation,
- To expand the scope and complexity of the regular joint exercises (SHAKTI, VARUNAand GARUDA) in the future,
- Agreed on continuing implementation of the “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region”,
- interacted with CEOs of French defence industry and urged them to expand their defence manufacturing in India under the Make in India initiative,
- To promote defence technology and R&D cooperation with Indian stakeholders such as Bharat Dynamics Limited,Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bharat Earth Movers Limited, Goa Shipyard Limited, Mazagaon Dock ShipbuildersLimited etc.,
iii. The dialogue was agreed on during the summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron in March 2018.
iv. She would also address a select audience on the topic ‘India-France Defence Engagement in a Multi-polar World’ at IRSEM.
Meeting with French counterpart:
On October 12, 2018, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held delegation level talks with her French counterpart Ms. Florence Parly.
i. The talks were held under the framework of the annual Indo-French defence ministerial dialogue.
ii. They discussed on the following:
- To deepen the strategic and defence cooperation between the two countries,
- On co-production of military platforms and weapons,
- Expanding cooperation between their armed forces, particularly in the maritime domain.
Visiting Dassault amid controversy:
On October 12, 2018, Defence Minister also visited a production facility of French aerospace major Dassault Aviation in Argenteuil, near Paris, which manufactures the Rafale jets of India.
She took stock of progress in production of the fighter jets which is due to be delivered to India by September 2019.
- The controversy targets the procurement of 36 Rafale jets under a Rs 58,000 crore government-to-government deal between India and France.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The final deal was sealed on September 23, 2016.
- In April, the Indian Air Force started the process to acquire a fleet of 114 fighter jets and Dassault Aviation has emerged as one of the key contenders for the contract.
Address at the Institute of Strategic Research (IRSEM):
On October 12, 2018, Defence Minister Smt Sitharaman addressed ‘India-France Defence Engagement in a Multipolar World’ at the Institute of Strategic Research (IRSEM) in Paris.
i. She addressed the Institute of Strategic Research (IRSEM) on the theme of ‘India-France Defence Engagement in a Multipolar World’.
ii. She continued to stress on the following topics:
- To have framework of joint manufacturing and technology driven partnerships,
- Urged the French defence players to invest in Indian Government’s ‘Make-in-India’initiative,
- To counter terrorism especially instability in the Af-Pak region, as well as parts of West Asia and Africa,
- For safety of international sea lanes, growing India-France maritime cooperation, especially in the Indian Ocean region is necessary.
iii. The L’Institut de recherche stratégique de l’ÉcoleMilitaire (IRSEM)[French Military College’s Institute for Strategic Research], is a well-known think-tank for military and strategic affairs based in Paris.
♦ Capital: Paris.
♦ Currency: Euro.
♦ President: Emmanuel Macron.