If India Wants, We Are Ready To Provide More Rafales: French Defence Min

Citing close strategic ties between India and France, French Defence Minister Florence Parly on Friday said her country was ready to provide more Rafale combat aircraft if India wants them.

In New Delhi for the annual defence dialogue between the two countries, the French Defence Minister also targeted China for behaving aggressively in the region including the South China Sea where it attempts to hamper freedom of navigation in open seas.
“We as France are ready to answer any additional needs or request that could be made by India. We know that an aircraft carrier will soon be delivered. Aircraft are needed. So we are open and ready to provide any other Rafale if this is India’s decision,” Parly said in an interaction at the Ananta Centre think tank.

The French Defence Minister pointed out that the Indian Navy was soon to get the delivery of its second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant for which it would need more fighter aircraft.

Indian Navy is looking for 57 combat aircraft for its second aircraft carrier and the French Rafale aircraft is one of the contenders. Parly said having the same aircraft in both countries was an asset for both nations and expressed happiness over the performance of these aircraft in the Indian inventory.

India signed its biggest ever defence deal with France in 2016 as part of which 36 Rafale aircraft were to be inducted into the Air Force. More than 30 planes have already arrived while the last few would be here by the end of this financial year.

India deployed the French aircraft swiftly along the border in the ongoing standoff with China.

Discussing China, Parly said even though China was a major partner of Europe and France in terms of trade and other issues, it was behaving aggressively in the South China Sea where freedom of navigation must be ensured.

“China is getting more and more aggressive in the region and it is even more (aggressive) specific when it comes to the South China Sea. France and India share the same views on something which is key international maritime flow, the freedom of navigation. Freedom of navigation is not just a concept. It is put at risk and most of the goods use maritime lanes. These lanes must remain free. We sometimes see the tremors close to South China Sea,” the French Defence Minister said.

She said that France wants to make sure that this freedom of navigation is respected. “That is why despite we are far from our homeland, we deploy regularly our navy to express our right to navigate freely in these waters,” she said.

Parly said the French have been deploying regularly in exercises like Skyross across the South China Sea and Indian Ocean region and would want to extend that partnership.

She remarked that due to the close ties between the two nations sometimes that distance between the rivers Ganga and Seine seems very less. (ANI)

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