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Boosting cooperation in defence, trade, digital domain set to be focus of Macron's India visit

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi meeting the President of the French Republic, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit, in Rome, Italy on October 30, 2021. Photo: PIB (File Photo).

NEW DELHI (PTI): India's negotiations with France on its proposed procurement of 26 Rafale-M fighter jets and three Scorpene submarines are moving forward "positively", people familiar with the matter have said, days ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to New Delhi.

Macron will be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations at the Kartavya Path in New Delhi on January 26.

Apart from New Delhi, the French President is set to attend official events in another city as well during his two-day visit, the people cited above said.

It is learnt that Macron may have some engagements in Jaipur. However, there is no official word on it yet.

Ways to boost bilateral cooperation in a range of areas including digital domain, defence, trade, clean energy, youth exchanges, easing visa norms for students are set to be the focus of talks between Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the sources said.

The two leaders are also expected to deliberate on expanding maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, the sources said, adding they may also exchange views on the situation in the Red Sea.

The discussions on the Rafale-M jets and Scorpene submarines are moving forward positively, but it cannot be said when the deals will be concluded as they are commercial contracts, said one of the people cited above.

In July last year, the Defence Ministry approved the purchase of 22 Rafale (marine) jets from France, primarily for deployment on board the indigenously-built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

The Ministry had also cleared procurement of three Scorpene submarines from France.

Under the Indian Navy's Project 75, six Scorpene submarines have already been constructed in India by Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in cooperation with the Naval Group of France.

In October, India formally communicated to France its decision to procure 26 naval variant of Rafale fighter aircraft for the Indian Navy, kick-starting the procurement process under an intergovernmental framework.

It is learnt that price negotiations on both the procurement projects have not yet been concluded.

The defence and strategic ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.

The two strategic partners also expressed commitment to cooperate in the co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including for the benefit of third countries.

The two sides are also expanding cooperation in the maritime domain including in the Indian Ocean Region.

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