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India, France to discuss ways to boost defence cooperation

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NEW DELHI (PTI): French Defence Minister Florence Parley will hold extensive talks with her Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday to deepen the already close bilateral strategic ties.

Parley, during her two-day visit, will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meet National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and is expected to lay the ground for French President Emmanuel Macron's upcoming trip to India.

In a statement, the French Embassy said the visit of Parley is aimed at strengthening all aspects of France's "fast developing" defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner.

"She will be received by the Prime Minister of India, and the Minister of Defence to prepare for the upcoming State visit of the President of the French Republic," the Embassy said.

It said Parley's talks with Sitharaman will range from defence cooperation, in particular on maritime security, joint exercises of the armed forces, counter-terrorism, to industrial and technological partnership under the 'Make in India' initiative.

"They will also review progress made in major cooperation projects," it said.

Parley is also likely to push for a follow up order of additional Rafale fighter jets after the delivery of 36 jets under a Rs 58,000 crore deal finalised last year.

Parley will travel to Nagpur on Friday afternoon to attend the foundation laying ceremony of an aerospace park being set up under a joint venture by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation and Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Aerospace Ltd.

The joint venture is part of Dassault's offset obligations for the Rs 58,000 crore deal to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets to India.

The aerospace park will manufacture aircraft components for the Indian and global market.

The French defence minister will also visit the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) and the Western Naval Command (WNC) in Mumbai.

At MDL shipyard, she will visit the yard where six Scorpene submarines are being made in India with transfer of technology under the P75 project by the MDL.

The submarines are being built in collaboration with French shipbuilding major Naval Group (formerly DCNS).

She will also board the INS Kalvari, the first of the six Scorpene submarines, said the Embassy.

"At the Western Naval Command, Parley will be received by Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, WNC, for discussions on Indo-French defence and security cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

"One of the most dynamic aspects of the Indo-French strategic partnership, this will be a key issue of President Macron's State visit," said the embassy statement.

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