France's Naval Group Denies Knowledge About Any Discussions Between Paris and Delhi on Nuclear Subs
While France has doubled down on its partnerships with countries in the Asia-Pacific after being snubbed by Australia, the US, and the UK in the wake of the AUKUS pact announcement, experts say it is unlikely that it will replicate AUKUS' example to transfer nuclear defence technology to non-permanent members of the UNSC.
France's Naval Group has denied any knowledge about ongoing discussions between Paris and New Delhi on a potential acquisition of Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) by the Indian Navy.
"The discussions have been under two authorities on global defence related topics and the industry has not participated", a spokesperson for Naval Group told Sputnik.
The spokesperson was responding to reports in the Indian media that French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly had offered the Indian side SSN technology during her official visit to the South Asian nation this month.
"However, we are deeply involved in Indian submarine ongoing programme and would be available to support in most adapted way", the spokesperson added.
Paris-based Naval Group, which specialises in naval defence technologies, is already involved in the Indian Navy's "Project 75", as part of which New Delhi is developing six diesel-electric Scorpene-class submarines in collaboration with the French company.
The fourth submarine of the lot, INS Vela, was commissioned by the Indian Navy last month, as per India's Defence Ministry.
During her visit, Parly held the Third Annual Defence Dialogue with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
An official release after the meeting stated that the ministers discussed "a wide range of bilateral, regional, defence, and defence industrial cooperation issues" during the meeting.
Boosting defence cooperation also figured in discussions between FranÃ§ois Delattre, secretary-general at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, and Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla during the former's visit to New Delhi on 21 December, just days after Parly concluded her India trip.
India's Quest for Nuclear Attack Submarines
While India is looking to develop at least six SSNs as part of its Project 75 (I), based on advanced technology, by 2032, it does not as yet possess the expertise to execute a naval undertaking of this size.
At present, the Indian Navy operates just one Arihant-class SSBN (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine) that it has on lease from Russia.
In the wake of the announcement of the AUKUS trilateral pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US in September this year, there was speculation in New Delhi that France may offer India the elusive technology to make up for the snub by Canberra and as a means to increase its footprint in the Asia-Pacific region under its version of the "Indo-Pacific" strategy.
The AUKUS pact's first initiative will see Australia getting advanced nuclear technology from the US and the UK, building at least eight submarines by 2040.
However, in doing so Canberra also nixed a $66 billion contract with France, signed in 2016, for delivering conventionally-powered submarines.
France described the AUKUS announcement as a "stab in the back" by its Western allies.
In spite of the newfound optimism in India, European experts have argued that the EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy, unveiled on 16 September, calls for "intensifying dialogues" among nations on "non-proliferation and disarmament".
During a visit to Indonesia last month, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also slammed the AUKUS pact for "breaking away from the tradition" of not transferring advanced military nuclear technology to countries which are not permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
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