Defence cooperation, particularly under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, will be high on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda in France and Germany during his European sojourn beginning on April 9.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) is scheduled to meet on Saturday ahead of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to Japan starting on Sunday. Several issues connected to the two visits are on the agenda along with the upgrade of Russian-built Kamov helicopters of the Navy.
While the focus in France will largely be on the over $20 billion deal for 126 Rafale fighter aircraft under the multi-role combat aircraft contest, which both sides have been negotiating since 2012, there are a few other big ticket deals on the table.
France will press for the conclusion of the $6 billion ‘Maitri’ project for co-development and production of Short Range Surface to Air Missiles. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) signed a memorandum of understanding with MBDA of France in 2013, but there has hardly been any movement since.
Several Defence Ministry officials feel that this deal is unnecessary as it directly competes with the DRDO’s Akash system. “The Maitri project can go on, but we want the missiles, and Akash is serving that purpose,” a senior Defence Ministry official said earlier.
The other issue pertains to single vendor situation involving Airbus in two projects. One is the Avro aircraft replacement programme and the second is aircraft for the indigenous Air Borne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) programme under development by DRDO.
In addition, France is also keen to expand defence engagement by taking up joint projects under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
In Berlin, the focus will be on how Germany can play a bigger role in ‘Make in India’ in general and defence in particular which was emphasised by German officials on several occasions.