NEW DELHI — During a visit here by French President Francois Hollande, Paris has offered to transfer high-technology weaponry and equipment to India on a joint development basis.
The offer was made during talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, said an official of the Indian Foreign Ministry.
“We reviewed progress on the Jaitapur nuclear power project and reiterated our commitment to its early implementation. We expressed satisfaction with the progress in our defense cooperation, which is poised to reach a qualitatively new level,” Singh told reporters.
Eric Trappier, the chief executive of French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation, joined the French president’s 50-member delegation. The company’s Rafale fighter, the preferred vendor in the Indian Air Force’s $11 billion Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition, figured in the summit-level talks.
Regarding progress on the MMRCA talks, an Indian Defence Ministry official said the negotiations are on track, but no time frame can be given as to when the contract can be signed. The negotiations between Dassault and MoD officials are getting more “rigorous” by the day, especially about technology transfer to Hindustan Aeronautics, said an MoD source.
It is not known if a major obstacle is preventing agreement on technology transfer, but sources added that issues relating to the delivery schedule and production “could get sticky,” the source said.
India wants to gain defense technology transfer on a joint development basis and has forged alliances with Russia and Israel on several projects, said a Defence Ministry official.
A diplomat of the French Embassy said, “France can help India become an export hub for a variety of weapons and equipment.”
The French are helping India build nuclear reactors in the state of Maharashtra after becoming the first country to sign a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2008.
India’s Nuclear Power Corp. and Areva of France propose to jointly build nuclear reactors in Maharashtra, but there is stalemate on issues relating to reactor safety and liability.
Hollande and Singh discussed the nuclear cooperation issues as well, officials said.