New Delhi: With the 126 fighter deal in the pipeline, India and France on Friday set out on a course of long-term strategic cooperation with the latter offering to move on from client-seller relationship to joint production of military hardware which could be exported to other countries.
The two countries held detailed discussions to further strengthen their defence ties including enhancement of their military exchanges.
After the meeting with Defence Minister AK Antony, his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country will soon sign an agreement for the over Rs 50,000 crore Rafale deal with India under which it will provide its guarantees for the proposed pact.
The French side has also proposed a major Aero-naval exercise with India in the Indian Ocean Region which could include the participation of nuclear-propelled submarines and aircraft carriers along with fighter aircraft.
"We have gone beyond the client supplier relations. France is prepared to initiate co-development and co-production projects which could in future include exporting equipment to the third country markets," Le Drian said in a speech at the IDSA here.
On the 126 combat aircraft deal, the French Minister said the negotiations were going on well but refused to predict any timeframe for signing the mega deal.
"There will be a framework Indo-French intergovernmental
agreement for this contract, which will provide all the necessary guarantees of the French state... France guarantees the Transfer of Technology," the French Defence Minister said.
India had selected the Rafale aircraft 16 months ago after a long tendering process and the two sides are negotiating the contract since January 2012.
Asked if France was concerned over the delays in signing the contract, Le Drian said, "I am not at all concerned over the delays. The point is that you have to abide by the Indian procedures."
"This is a project of such great magnitude and everything has to be checked and explored so that there is no choke two years down the line that leads to the failure of the project... The project is moving at a normal and positive pace," he said.
Explaining to the gathering that France will have an aircraft fleet of Rafale jets for nuclear weapons delivery capability, Le Drian said India has chosen the best aircraft for its requirements.