France keen on more investment in Indian defence: envoy

India in August had raised the foreign direct investment cap in the defence sector from 26% to 49%

France keen on more investment in Indian defence: envoy

India could look for increased participation of French companies in the defence sector under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India programme that aims to boost domestic manufacturing, French ambassador to India Francois Richier said on Tuesday. Briefing reporters ahead of Modi’s first visit to France starting Thursday, Richier said French investment in defence manufacturing was “something that I think could become a new element, a new chapter in Make in India”. However, there is still lack of clarity over whether India’s pending big-ticket French purchases—126 Dassault medium multi-role range combat aircraft and six European pressurized reactors to boost electricity production—will be concluded. Richier reserved comments on both, merely stating that talks were ongoing in both cases. As part of his three-nation tour, Modi will visit France (9-12 April), Germany (12-14 April) and Canada. India in August had raised the foreign direct investment cap in the defence sector from 26% to 49%, in a move aimed at accelerating indigenization and introducing modern technologies to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces. In September, Modi announced the Make in India programme. Richier said several agreements spanning space technology cooperation to smart cities— another pet project of Modi—will be signed during the Prime Minister’s visit. France is keen to partner India in many of the new programmes identified by the Prime Minister, including Clean India and the overhauling of India’s railway system, the ambassador said. A research paper commissioned by the French embassy on French businesses in India released last month shows that 1,051 firms are present in India. Major French companies with a presence in the defence sector include DCN International SA, Dassault Aviation and Thales, which has an Indian unit. According to a programme outlined by Richier, France appears to be rolling out the red carpet for the Indian Prime Minister, who will be accompanied by key cabinet ministers. Modi will meet business leaders, besides holding talks with President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace, the French president’s official residence. Modi will also be meeting the speaker of the French National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, besides some of its members. The Prime Minister will also visit Toulouse for a tour of the headquarters of Airbus Industrie and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, the French counterpart of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Author: Elizabeth Roche

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