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

New Delhi: French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, after which she participated in the third Annual Defence Dialogue with Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

“In a world of growing instability, France sees India as major power & partner to build a multipolar order, defend the rule of law and tackle global challenges,” Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain wrote.

Following the meeting with PM Modi, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart held wide-ranging talks with a focus on further enhancing bilateral defence and security cooperation as well as pressing regional issues.

“The third Annual Defence Dialogue between India and France took place between Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh and French Minister for Armed Forces Ms Florence Parly in New Delhi on December 17, 2021. A wide range of bilateral, regional, defence and defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed in the annual meeting,” a statement by the Ministry of Defence informed.

As per the Defence Ministry, 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.

Defence industrial cooperation was discussed with focus on future collaborations and co-production between the two countries.

“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,” the Ministry of Defence stated.

It was further mentioned that France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and will take over the Presidency of European Union from January 1, 2022. The two Ministers decided to work closely on a number of issues during the French Presidency.

India and France had concluded their annual bilateral Army Exercise, Shakti, with focus on counter-terrorist operations, in France in November 2021.

Tweeting about the meeting, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh wrote: “India-France Strategic Partnership is more relevant today than ever. I had an excellent meeting with my French counterpart”.

Florence Parly had arrived in Delhi on Thursday evening on a two-day visit.

France Ready To Provide Additional Rafale Jets If India Requires: French Defence Minister

In an important statement, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Friday that France is ready to provide additional Rafale fighter jets to India if it requires, noting that the use of the same aircraft by the two strategic partners is a reflection of “real asset and strength” in their ties.

The French defence minister made the comments at an interactive session organised by Ananta Centre on India-France cooperation, news agency PTI reported.

“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 is a real achievement,” she said in response to a question.

“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 added.

On Thursday, the French embassy informed that a total of 33 Rafale jets have already been delivered to India as per schedule despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 59,000 crore.

The first batch of five Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, arrived in India on July 29 last year. 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 (there)...that aircraft are needed. We are open and ready to provide any other Rafale if this is India’s decision,” she said, as quoted by PTI.