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France advocates 'more than customer-supplier' defence relationship with India

French Defence Minister Herve Morin shakes hands with Indian Defence Minister A K Antony in New Delhi on Friday. Image credit: PTI

NEW DELHI (PTI): Keen to step up its defence supplies to India, France has sought to project itself as a better contender than others by suggesting it believed in more than customer-supplier relationship.

“Among three countries (Russia, the US and Israel) mentioned, one is having that kind of (customer-supplier) relationship. Secondly, that holds true for the main big country US also. Progressively you can eliminate the other country also.

“We do suggest number of equipment but we have respect for the independence of that country (customer),” French Defence Minister Herve Morin told reporters here.

The Minister was asked about the strategy of France to tackle competition in the Indian defence market.

Taking a dig at Russian military equipment in Indian forces, he said, “You have problems with Sukhois and MiGs whereas the Mirages are still flying. That is the situation.”

Several French companies are vying for various Indian defence contracts including 126 combat aircraft, 197 choppers for IAF and Army and artillery systems.

The Minister said France was keen on expanding its cooperation with India in fields of intelligence sharing and land systems.

“Already, we have relations in air and navy and we would like to go in more depth in relations in land (systems) and second is intelligence,” he said.

“India has suffered a great deal. We want to exchange information in order to fight against terrorism,” Morin added.

The French Minister said he has delivered a letter from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on all the issues related to defence cooperation between the two countries.

President Sarkozy is expected to visit India early next year.

Morin said that during his meetings with Defence Minister A K Antony and the three Services chiefs, the two sides agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership and open new areas of military cooperation and discussed equipment programmes for the Indian armed forces.

Terming the announcement of dates for 197 helicopter competition field-trials as a “source of satisfaction”, he said it was offering its 'Caesar' howitzers for India's requirement for future artillery guns but didn't make any comments on the long-pending Mirage 2000 upgrade deal.

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