Nine months after expressing its willingness to buy 36 Rafale jets in “fly-away” condition, India has reached an agreement with France on their specifications and weapons systems — but not on the price.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) pertaining to technical aspects of the Rafale deal on Monday. Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting French President Francois Hollande expressed confidence that the financial aspects would be resolved soon.
“Leaving out the financial aspect, India and France have signed the IGA on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets. We expect that even the financial aspects pertaining to purchase of Rafale jets will be resolved as soon as possible,” said Modi.
Describing the MoU as a “decisive” step and stressing that the Rafale jets have been “proving their efficacy in targeting the ISIS”, Hollande said, “Some financial issues remain that will be sorted out in the next coming days.”
Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of Rafale, said in a statement, “We are very pleased with this progress, and are actively supporting French authorities in their efforts to finalise a complete agreement within the next four weeks.”
India and France also agreed to renew their bilateral agreement on defence cooperation, which was signed in 2006, by another 10 years.
Besides, New Delhi and Paris came out with a strongly-worded joint statement on counter-terrorism and asked for decisive action to be taken against “Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups such as al Qaeda”. This is the first time that the two countries have named these terror groups in a joint statement.
“Condemning the recent terror attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur in India, the two countries reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring to justice their perpetrators and the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which also caused the demise of two French citizens, and to ensure that such attacks do not recur in the future,” the statement read.
Hollande commended India for playing a stabilising role in South Asia, particularly in Afghanistan, and its “recent initiative to launch a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan”, the joint statement on counter-terrorism said.
“From Paris to Pathankot, we saw the gruesome face of the common challenge of terrorism… I also commend the strength of your resolve and action to these terrorist attacks. President Hollande and I have agreed to scale up the range of our counter-terrorism cooperation in a manner that helps us tangibly mitigate and reduce the threat of extremism and terrorism to our societies,” said Modi.
“Daesh has attacked us. The ISIS is provoking us but we are determined to take the right decision. We will strike them time and again, those who kill our children. I would like to thank you for the support in dire circumstances. France will never forget. We have decided to strengthen our cooperation against terror,” said Hollande.
In this context, the joint statement said the two countries also resolved to “step up” their bilateral cooperation through annual strategic dialogues and meetings of the joint working group to counter terrorism.
To this end, “they committed to further develop exchanges in the fields of intelligence, finance, justice and police”. They also decided to hold operational exercises between the French GIGN and the National Security Guard.
On civilian nuclear cooperation, Modi and Hollande agreed on a roadmap to “speed up” discussions on the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in 2016. “Their shared aim is to start the implementation of the project in early 2017,” the joint statement said.
Expressing hope that the issues pertaining to nuclear reactor plants would be settled within a year, Hollande said, “There is no better trust than sharing civil nuclear technology.”
On Monday, the two sides signed the revised MoU between EDF and NPCIL for the construction of six EPR units at Jaitapur. This revision is necessary since EDF, the French state-owned power utility, has bought stakes in Areva.
On the export control regimes, France and India committed to continue to work jointly towards India’s accession to the multilateral export control regimes, namely, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement.
“India and France underscored their determination to achieve the accession of India to the NSG in 2016,” the joint statement said.
Apart from the MoU on Rafale jets, the two countries signed 13 agreements, spreading across space, railways, culture and science and technology.