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India, France looking at taking strategic partnership to 'newer heights': Rajnath

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with French Minister of Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, in Paris, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): India and France discussed potential collaboration in niche areas such as cyberspace and artificial intelligence with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh saying that strategic partnership between the two nations is more relevant today than ever and both sides are looking forward to taking it to "newer heights".

Singh and French Minister of Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu held extensive talks at the fifth annual India-France Defence Dialogue in Paris on Wednesday evening with a focus on enhancing defence industrial cooperation.

"The two ministers discussed a wide range of topics from the assessment of regional situation to the ongoing military-to-military engagements, with a focus on enhancing defence industrial cooperation," the defence ministry said on Thursday.

In a post on X, Singh described his meeting with Lecornu as "excellent". "Had an excellent meeting with the French Minister for the Armed Forces, Mr. Sebastien Lecornu in Paris," Singh said.

"India-France strategic partnership has deepened over years and is more relevant today than ever. We look forward to taking this partnership to newer heights," he said.

The ministry said Singh and Lecornu reviewed the ongoing defence projects and discussed ways to deepen the collaboration between the defence industries of both the countries.

"They also discussed potential collaboration in niche domains such as space, cyber and artificial intelligence," it said in a statement.

Last Wednesday, Singh visited a jet engine manufacturing facility of French firm Safran near Paris and witnessed the latest developments in aero-engine technology.

His visit to the facility at Gennevilliers assumed significance as Safran is looking at co-developing a fighter aircraft engine in India under a mega project.

Singh also interacted with a group of CEOs of top French defence companies and highlighted to them the "advantages" of co-development and co-production of defence hardware in India that he said could be exported to third countries.

The defence ministry said Singh visited the Safran Engine Division's R and D Centre at Gennevilliers near Paris and witnessed the latest developments in aero-engine technology.

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

In July, India and France announced a raft of ground-breaking defence cooperation projects, including the joint development of jet and helicopter engines and construction of three Scorpene submarines, for the Indian Navy.

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.

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