We’re Studying India’s Plan For Buying Fighter Jets: French Envoy

France will always be there to meet to India’s defence needs, says Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler.

France has been one of India’s closest strategic partners, and among the biggest military suppliers to Indian military throughout its modern history. French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler responded to questions from The Hindu against the backdrop of DefExpo 2018 under way in Chennai.

DefExpo 2018’s tagline is ‘India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub’. How are the French government and companies hoping to be active participants in Indian efforts?

For a long time now, the French industry has been much more than just a supplier of India. Make in India has been a reality for France with regard to armaments since many years. Thus, the Indian missile manufacturer, BDL, has manufactured more than 10,000 anti-tank Milan missiles under licence. Another example is HAL, which has produced and is still producing under licence the light helicopters, Cheetah and Chetak, which are derived from French choppers. And I consider the construction of six Scorpène submarines in India under the P-75 contract to be the most emblematic of the French tradition of Make in India. Numerous joint ventures have been launched over the past few years. At DefExpo, I have also noticed the privileged positioning of some of these Indo-French companies.

What are the key highlights of French participation in DefExpo? What technologies and platforms do you hope Indian agencies would be interested in, or benefit from?

The French defence industry is turning out in force at this expo, just as it did in the past years. Around 20 land and naval equipment companies are there, most of them at the French pavilion, such as Nexter, Safran, Thales and many MSMEs. Naval Group will also be there, near its Indian partner, Mazagon Docks Shipbuilders Ltd.; MBDA is next to its partner, Larsen & Toubro; so will Airbus.

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