India and France on Friday agreed to further strengthen their bilateral defence and strategic ties besides working together to enhance cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums. The two sides also agreed to explore possibilities for joint venture in weapon manufacturing.

These were the major takeaways from the talks between visiting French Defence Minister Florence Parly and her Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh here.

France also offered to supply more Rafale fighter jets to India if it requires with Parly saying the use of the same aircraft by the two strategic partners is a reflection of “real asset and strength” in their ties.

France was also ready to supply the naval version of the jets for the second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant likely to be inducted into the Navy late next year. The carrier is indigenously designed and built here and is now undergoing mandatory sea and other trials.

India bought 36 Rafale jets worth over Rs 60,000 crore from France and the induction process into the IAF is on with 33 of them already in service now. The remaining jets will arrive next year. India and France had inked a Government-to-Government deal for the Rafale jets in 2016.

As regards talks, a wide range of bilateral, regional, defence and defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed in the annual meeting. The visiting minister also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Incidentally, she had visited India last year when the first batch of four Rafale jets were inducted into the IAF at Ambala.

The Ministers reviewed the existing military-to-military cooperation, which has increased in spite of pandemic challenges. They discussed ways to increase defence cooperation in all domains. India and France have recently concluded their annual bilateral Army Exercise, Shakti, with focus on counter-terrorist operations, in France in November. Defence industrial cooperation was discussed with focus on future collaborations and co-production between the two countries, officials said after the high profile parleys.

The Ministers acknowledged their convergences on number of strategic and defence issues.

They expressed commitment to work together to enhance cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums. France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and shall take over the Presidency of European Union from January 01, 2022. The two Ministers decided to work closely on a number of issues during the French Presidency.

On France willing to offer more Rafale jets, Parly said earlier in the day during a seminar “I am very happy that the Indian Air Force is satisfied with its Rafale and we are very proud that despite Covid, the 36 aircraft will be delivered on time according to the contract... It’s a real achievement.”

“Using the same aircraft is a real asset and strength. I am sure that there is room for new developments. We are ready to answer any additional needs of request that could be made by India,” she said.

The French minister also referred to India’s planned induction of a second aircraft carrier and indicated that France will be interested in supplying the carrier-based jets.

“We know that the aircraft carrier will soon be...That aircraft are needed. We are open and ready to provide any other Rafale if this is India’s decision,” she said.

The first batch of five Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, arrived in India on July 29 last year.