France hopes for swifter decisions by Modi regime

France hopes for swifter decisions by Modi regime

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday took a subtle dig at the erstwhile Congress-led government for dilly-dallying on bilateral defence deals.  

He, however, exuded optimism that the new regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will swiftly decide on purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft from France.

He, in turn, was reassured by the new BJP government at the Centre of New Delhi’s commitment to the proposed atomic power plant at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, where French company AREVA will build six 1650 Mwe European pressure reactors. The BJP’s key ally, the Shiv Sena, has been opposing the project and has of late, raised its pitch.

Fabius, who is currently on a visit to New Delhi, met Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to push for an expeditious move on the deal for purchasing the Rafale fighter jets from the French aerospace major, Dassault Aviation, for the Indian Air Force.

He also nudged the Indian government for early signing of the techno-commercial deal between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and the AREVA of France.
The two-day visit of the French Foreign Minister to New Delhi was Paris’s first formal engagement with the new government.

Talking to journalists after his meeting with Swaraj, Fabius gave vent to the French government’s disappointment over the tardy pace of negotiations on the purchase of Rafale MMRCA as well as for the delay in other proposed defence deals.

“It is true some elements and several of them have taken a long time. It is fair that for complex matters it takes some time, but there is a difference between some time and too long. And we have some examples there,” said the French Foreign Minister.

The Ministry of Defence had selected Dassault Aviation’s Rafale in 2012, rejecting bids from the countries like  US, Sweden and Russia. The negotiation for the final deal could not progress much, not only for differences over price and details of technology transfer, but also allegedly for the slow pace of decision-making by the MoD during the Congress-led UPA government’s tenure.

“We should see with the new government, which is particularly keen upon efficiency and the implementation of administrative decisions which are taken. We shall see with the new government how to implement rapidly those decisions that were already taken and I will discuss that with the defence minister and prime minister as well,” said Fabius.

The French foreign minister is likely to call on the prime minister on Tuesday.

Expression of confidence

He said that the French government was “pretty confident” of “swift” moves by the new government in New Delhi on the Rafale deal and a “positive outcome”. 

He announced the French government’s decision to offer a Line of Credit to India of one billion euros for projects for sustainable development.

Bilateral civil nuclear cooperation figured prominently in the meeting between Fabius and Swaraj. “Both sides reiterated their commitment to proceed with the Jaitapur nuclear power plant. They also agreed that it is best for experts to deal with the techno-commercial aspects of this major project, which both India and France are committed to as a long term project between the two countries,” spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said.

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