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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 4-day visit to Italy, France from today; focus on industrial cooperation

NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will pay a four-day visit to Italy and France beginning today to expand bilateral strategic engagement and explore industrial cooperation for joint development of military hardware.

In the first leg of his two-nation tour, Singh will travel to Rome where he will hold wide-ranging talks with his Italian counterpart Guido Crisetto, according to the defence ministry. The relationship between India and Italy was elevated to the level of strategic partnership in March during the Italian prime minister's visit to India.

"Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Italy and France from October 9 to 12, " the ministry said.

In Paris, Singh will attend the fifth annual India-France defence dialogue with his French counterpart Sebastian Lecornu.

"India and France recently celebrated 25 years of strategic partnership. Both countries enjoy a deep and wide-ranging bilateral defence relationship, including significant industrial cooperation," the defence ministry said in a statement.

"In both Rome and Paris, the defence minister will also interact with the defence industry CEOs and senior representatives to discuss potential opportunities for industrial cooperation," it said.

Officials said the potential for joint development of military platforms will be part of Singh's discussions both in Rome and Paris.

Meanwhile, Eric Trappier, the chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, is set to visit New Delhi this week to discuss various aspects of India's proposed purchase of 26 naval variants of the Rafale aircraft, people familiar with the matter said.

They said Trappier arrives in Delhi on Monday on a two-day trip to hold preliminary negotiations on the procurement. However, there is no official announcement on the visit by Dassault Aviation.

The defence and strategic ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.

In July, India and France announced a raft of ground-breaking defence cooperation projects including the joint development of jet and helicopter engines and construction of three Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy.

The two strategic partners also expressed commitment to cooperate in the co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including for the benefit of third countries.

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