India, France ready to sign Scorpene submarine deal
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
New Delhi, Oct 5, IRNA
India and France are ready to sign the $3 billion Scorpene submarine deal on October 6 negotiated directly between the two governments without floating any tender.
In a rare gesture, India did not invite bids for this defence deal, with the result that the Germans and the Russians were excluded despite having shown specific interest in the proposal.
The purchase of six Scorpene submarines by India was announced on September 12 when India's Prime Minister Manmohan singh met French President Jacques Chirac at Paris. This is being perceived as a larger effort by New Delhi to obtain French support in the Nuclear Suppliers Group for the removal of restrictions that will clear the way for the supply of nuclear reactors to India.
France is one of the interested parties and the Scorpene deal is expected to put the shaky defence and aviation relations between the two countries on a more stable track.
The deal acquires greater significance in view of the fuss created over the supply of 43 Airbus aircraft by France to India Airlines with the entire project being revaluated by a special committee set up for the purpose.
The French have been working overtime to ensure the success of this deal, negotiations for which were initiated by the NDA government in 1998.
Former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra had shown particular interest in the submarine deal, and was perceived as being France-friendly in defence circles.
Under the UPA government, France, sources said, had been finding it difficult to retain a grip on the Indian defence market that is reported to be leaning towards the US and Israel.
France has lost the T-72 fire control system to a bid by Irael.
The French fire control systems in the Russian T-90 tanks have not performed well in the heat of the Rajasthan deserts.
France is also in competition with the US and Israel respectively for 197 light helicopters and air defence systems required by the Indian military.
The French are currently involved in India in the upgradation of MiG-21 and Sukhoi-30 fighters and advanced light helicopters, but given the size of the defence market here and the fact that "no one shops for defence equipment in the world like India these days" the effort is on to get a bigger chunk of the market.
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