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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman likely to visit Dassault plant in France

New Delhi : Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will hold the first defence minister level dialogue with her French counterpart Florence Parly today and is expected to visit Dassault’s Rafale fighter jet manufacturing facility outside Paris on Friday during her three-day visit to France. She may also meet President Emmanuel Macron, although there is no confirmation on this.

Government officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that Sitharaman’s visit to the Rafale facility comes from her desire to have a firsthand experience of its flying capabilities and to discuss with the plane’s maker Dassault Aviation, the delivery status of the 36 fighters ordered in fly away condition by India from France in a government to government deal. The first fighter is expected to land in India in September 2019.

According to the officials, the decision to hold an annual dialogue between the two countries at the defence minister level was decided during pMacron’s visit to India last March with an aim to deepen military cooperation between two strategic partners and expand it from air to space.

While defence cooperation between India and France has touched new heights, New Delhi wants to strengthen the on-going defence manufacturing partnership with more role for the Indian industry in cases involving the transfer of technology such as the Scorpene submarines. India’s Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited has a partnership with French Naval Group for manufacturing of the Scorpene submarine through the transfer of technology route. The two Defence Ministers will also talking about expanding the scope of joint exercises with advanced military training in Persian Gulf and near Reunion Islands in the far Pacific. Sitharaman and Parly will also discuss the supply of French Safran M88 military jet engine for Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.

Sitharaman travels to Singapore next week for the ASEAN Defence Minister Meeting plus and is expected to travel to the newly named Indo-Pacific Command in Hawai during her December visit to United States at the invitation of Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

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