Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday left France at the end of a three-day visit, which he said had been extremely productive and would further strengthen bilateral defence ties. The minister, who took formal charge and flew a sortie of the first of 36 Rafale combat jets to be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) during the tour, left with a message for French companies to make India their base for production of defence equipment.
"Thank you France! Merci! This visit has been extremely productive," Singh said in a farewell message on Twitter. "The outcomes of this visit will further strengthen the defence cooperation between India and France. My gratitude to President Emmanuel Macron, (Armed Forces) Minister Florence Parly and the government of France for their hospitality," he said.
On Wednesday evening, Singh addressed CEOs of leading French defence industries and called on them to collaborate in modernising India's shipyards and defence platforms through the infusion of technology.
"French firms can make India its base for production of defence equipment, not only for India's large market but also for export to other countries," he said. Singh also underlined the significance of the implementation of a single Goods and Services Tax across India, the biggest tax reform since its independence. "We have recently reduced our corporate tax significantly. For 'Make in India' in defence if there is need for further tax rationalisation, it may be considered suitably," Singh said.
The minister applauded the French companies for regularly participating in DefExpos organised in India with great energy and enthusiasm. He extended a special invitation to French firms to participate in DefExpo 2020, which will be held in Lucknow from February 5 to 8 next year. "Lucknow happens to be a city of rich culture and heritage and the French people are known to be highly appreciative of great cultures. Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh, which is also a land of new opportunities," he said.
During the deliberations with the CEOs, the minister highlighted India's substantial requirement of aero engines both in civil and military domains. He requested French OEMs to consider exploring the development of an aero engine complex on a government-to-government basis, highlighting that French companies could leverage from advantages in India such as low wages and availability of technical manpower. The topic was among many that were covered during the second annual India-France Defence Dialogue held in Paris this week.
By Aditi Khanna