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Rafale deal: Controversy baseless, govt bought at better terms, says Nirmala Sitharaman

The government today termed as “motivated” and “baseless” the controversy over the Rafale deal and asserted that the fighter jets have been bought at better terms.In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said all the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) have been followed and an inter-governmental agreement was signed on September 23, 2016 after the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). “The allegations are motivated and baseless. The government has bought the Rafale aircraft at better terms,” she said. The question was asked by six MPs, including three from the BJP, BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab, Samajwadi Party member Tej Pratap Singh Yadav and Shiv Sena’s Rahul Shewale.The Congress had alleged a “huge scam” in the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft saying this was done unilaterally without following the DPP, without any inter-governmental agreement and in the absence of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. The Congress had also made it an election issue in the Gujarat polls. In response to a question on the number of surgical strikes made by the Army in the last three years, the defence minister did not given any direct answer.Also readA shake up has been given to the defence ministry to speed up acquisitions: Nirmala Sitharaman”Based on specific and credible inputs, Indian Army strikes at terrorists/ infiltrators at the borders from time to time, in order to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the nation,” she held. In response to another question on whether the government foresees a two-front war at western and northern borders and initiatives taken by the government to deal with situation like Dokalam and proxy war by Pakistan, Sitharaman said the government is fully seized of the security threats and remains prepared to deal with all kinds of security challenges.”Appropriate measures are taken from time to time to maintain/ upgrade the country’s defence preparedness to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of India,” she said, adding that the government regularly reviews the threat perception to secure borders. Replying to another question, her deputy Subhash Bhamre said 103 defence personnel lost their lives in encounters with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir from 2014-16.On whether military expenditure as a percentage of GDP has reduced over a period of time, Bhamre said the defence budget was 1.54 per cent of the GDP. “Defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP may appear to be decreasing due to increasing trend in the growth of GDP. However, defence expenditure is increasing every year in absolute terms,” Bhamre said.

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MPs seek permanent solution to stubble burning in a bid to tackle dangerous air pollution

A permanent solution to stubble burning, which has been causing choking pollution in northern states, can be brought about at the cost of just 6 or 7 Rafale fighter jets, Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa said on Tuesday.Seeking immediate sanction of funds by the Centre to solve the problem, he said the NITI Aayog has projected that a permanent solution would cost around Rs 11,000 crore.Raising the issue of choking pollution from stuble burning in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh through a Zero Hour mention in the Rajya Sabha, Bajwa said this was just the cost of 6-7 Rafale jets.India is buying 36 Rafale fighters for about Rs 59,000 crore contract (7.87 billion euro) from France.He said pollution in the national capital has become a “national shame” and the government should urgently take steps to tackle it.Farmers, he said, needed support and should be given Rs 200 per quintal extra to get rid of crop residue in eco- friendly way. Farmers should be given financial support to stop stubble burning, he added.Vivek Gupta (TMC) wanted to know what steps the government has taken for the disposal of crop residue.Raising the issue of Cyclone Ockhi which has left a trail of destruction in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Lakshadweep, D Raja (CPI) said scores of fishermen are still missing.He demanded that the disaster be declared a national calamity and adequate financial assistance be given to the governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Union Terriroty of Lakshadweep.”Fishermen are passing through huge distress,” he said and demanded setting up of a separate ministry of fisheries to deal with issues of the fishermen.Harivansh (JD-U) sought steps to protect Jaiprakash Narayan’s village Sitab Diara in Saran on the UP-Bihar border from being flooded.

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BJP flared up emotions, misused state machinery: Ashok Gehlot

Congress’s state in-charge for Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot speaks to DNA’s Amrita Madhukalya about his party’s campaign and expectations. The former Rajasthan CM feels that the BJP’s use of the Gujarat state machinery played its role.Now that the results are out, how do they compare with the party’s expectations?The campaign that the BJP ran in Gujarat was never based on any issues, while our politics was based on real issues. Rahul ji spoke to farmers about better wages, about jobs to the youth, to the fishermen and to the Adivasis for inclusive development. Our manifesto drew from these experiences. The BJP released a manifesto just a day before the first phase of voting commenced. We’ve done our best for the people of Gujarat, and we are in a position to claim a moral victory.Was there any room for change in the Congress’s campaign?Our campaign drew from months of intensive research and experiences with different sections of the society. But, if you compare it with the BJP’s campaign, their simple pitch was to project Narendra Modi as a Gujarati man. Modi’s pleas to the people were: ‘I am a Gujarati’, ‘they have insulted me’ and ‘please vote for Gujarat asmita (pride)’. The BJP have simply flared up emotions. To add to that, they had more than 20 ministers and over 80 to 90 MPs sitting there. This was a clear misuse of state machinery. They raised no issues, and they had no replies to our questions. We raised the issue of the botched up Rafale deal and of the corruption linked to the party president’s son.Do you think the Congress covered some lost ground since 2012?See, Narendra Modi was then the CM, today he’s the PM. That has a huge role to play. He ensured that he was there in the state during the campaign. And yet, they have lost about 15 seats and a vote share of 16 per cent. The Congress has clearly made the dent it wanted to make.Rahul Gandhi took charge of the Congress just after the Gujarat campaign was over. Was that a calculated move?The Congress, no doubt, needs to look inward. Rahul ji took charge formally recently, but he has been at the forefront for a while. Every party worker and leader in Gujarat worked selflessly and they deserve applause for their efforts.

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Gujarat elections 2017: Rahul Gandhi dares Modi to talk about Gujarat

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi asked prime minister Narendra Modi to talk about issues related to Gujarat in the state elections. Addressing a rally in Anand on Friday evening, Gandhi said that the PM was only talking about Congress party and the past, and dared him to talk about the work done by BJP governments in Gujarat.“These are Gujarat elections. You should talk about Gujarat,” Gandhi said in Anand, the birthplace of Amul.He also claimed that the BJP manifesto, which was declared on Friday afternoon, was prepared in a hush in finance minister Arun Jaitley’s office, after his tweet criticising the party for not announcing a manifesto even after campaigning had ended. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday reiterated his promises made in the Congress manifesto as he addressed a rally in Ranesar in Bavla.“The Modi government will give Rs 33,000 crore to industrialists but will never forego the loans of farmers. I promise you that within 10 days of coming to power, we will ready a policy to waive the debts of farmers,” said Rahul addressing the audience, majority of who were farmers.“We promise to form a government that will listen to your Mann ki Baat,” said Rahul.He reminded the people that it was they who needed to choose the future of Gujarat after one party ruled it for 22 years. “We came and talked to the farmers, the common man, the Patidars, the labourers. We listened to what they wanted and our manifesto is a reflection of this aspiration,” he said.He questioned why Modi did not speak on Vikas anymore and why his speech did not have a word on Jay Shah (Amit Shah’s son) and the Rafale deals. He named five villages whose land were given to Tata’s Nano plant. “The land was taken from you with the promise that you would be given employment. I want to know how many from this village were employed in the plant. In fact, production has come down to just two cars a day,” said Gandhi. He said this was also the case of five villages, whose land were taken and given to Modi’s friend Adani for Re 1.

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Rafale deal: Randeep Surjewala says PM Modi compromised national security

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of compromising national security, and also alleged a huge scam in procurement of Rafale fighter jets from France.Surjewala said that when the UPA government was in power, Rafale had emerged as the lowest bidder for supplying 126 fighter planes to India with a base price of $10.2 billion (Rs54,000 crore). However, as per information available in public domain, the Narendra Modi government junked the earlier tender, and signed a deal for purchasing 36 Rafale fighter aircraft for $8.7 billion (Rs 59,000 crore).”As per the deal negotiated when Congress was in power, each fighter jet would have cost $80.95 million or Rs526 crore, while BJP government has finalised a price of $241 million or Rs1,570 crore. Who is responsible for this huge financial loss?” he questioned.The Congress leader alleged that earlier deal also include transfer of technology for manufacturing the aircraft in India by HAL, and offset clause requiring Dassault Aviation to invest 50% of the sale price in India.
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Congress ridicules Arun Jaitley on NPAs

The Opposition Congress on Thursday ridiculed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claim that no bank loan of big capitalist defaulters were ever waived off during the past three years of NDA rule. Armed with figures, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said loans worth Rs 1,88,287 crore of willful defaulters were waived since 2014. “We all know that top 50 corporates owe Rs 8.35 lakh crore to the banks and of these Rs 3 lakh crore are from three top Gujarat-based companies — Reliance (Anil Ambani group), Adani and Essar. Only early this month, one of them (Reliance) publicly declared shutting their telecom business with a liability of Rs 45,000 crore due to the banks,” he said. He said far from declaring it as an NPA, the government is trying to help the defaulter with further defence contracts like the Rafale deal.When reminded that most of the NPAs were legacies of the previous Congress-led UPA government, he asked what is preventing the current government to declare this liability of Rs 45,000 crore as NPA? He further said that it makes no sense to give these companies an offset contract worth Rs 30,000 crore in the Rafale deal.Singhvi ridiculed the government for the farm loan waiver of just one paisa to farmers of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra while waiving Rs 1.88 lakh crore of bank loans of its rogue crony friends. He wondered if the government is really trying to help the nationalised banks recover from collapse under the NPA burden. “The so-called Rs 2.11 lakh crore amount for bank recapitalisation announced by the finance minister on October 24 has neither a roadmap or a time frame. We are waiting for the finance minister to spell that out,” Singhvi added.Meanwhile, another spokesperson and party’s in-charge of media cell, Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that four private electricity companies in Gujarat were profiteering at the cost of state exchequer. Describing it a ‘huge scam in power purchase’, Surjewala said despite 8,641 MW production capacity with Gujarat government-owned power plants, they have been operating at an abysmally low level of 33% to 38% of their capacities over last three years to benefit four private power companies – Adani, ESSAR, Tata and China Light Power — from whom expensive power is purchased. He said during last three years alone (2013-14 to 2015-16), BJP government purchased electricity worth Rs.26,195 crore from the four private power companies and at the same time kept production of government-owned power plants low.Reliance replyA Reliance spokesperson said Singhvi has made false, defamatory and libellous statements against the group. “We will be filing a Rs 5,000 crore suit for damages for making these statements,” he said.
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Congress doesn’t believe Army about surgical strikes, celebrates release of Haifz Saeed: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Pushing the BJP’s campaign in Gujarat into high gear, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi why his party applauded the release of a terrorist in Pakistan and why he hugged the Chinese ambassador during the Dokalam stand-off.Modi, who started his high-voltage campaign with a rally in Kutch district’s Bhuj town, launched a stinging attack against the Congress party. “You are happy to hug Chinese ambassador, you are clapping on the release of Hafiz Saeed, you cannot respect Indian Army’s surgical strike. But why did you speak up about it? You could have just remained silent,” he said.Gandhi had recently tweeted: “Narendrabhai, baat nahi bani. Terror mastermind is free. President Trump just delinked Pak military funding from LeT. Hugplomacy fail. More hugs urgently needed.” The tweet had come after the release of LeT founder and Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed by a Pakistan court. Modi said the election in his home state is a contest between trust on development and dynastic politics He was addressing a BJP rally in Kutch district’s Bhuj town ahead of the first phase of the elections on December 9. “Recently Pakistani court released a terrorist, I cannot understand why these Congress people are clapping here,” Modi said in his speech delivered in Gujarati.
ALSO READ Gujarat election is contest between development and dynastic politics: Modi attacks CongressHe also alluded to allegations by Congress leaders, including the Congress vice president. “This Gujarat son has no stains in his public life. You come to the state and level baseless allegations on the son of the soil… the people of the state will not forgive you,” he said. During his campaign in the state in the last few days, Gandhi had trained his guns at the Modi-led government over the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. Taking a dig at the opposition party, which is making all out efforts to dislodge the long-ruling BJP in Gujarat, Modi asked, “When our soldiers… were standing eye-to-eye against the Chinese soldiers for over 70 days, at that time you were hugging the Chinese ambassador here…”For whose benefit did you do this? I am asking you,” Modi said, without taking any name. He referred to the Mumbai 26/11 terror strike and the attack in Uri and asked what was the difference between one government and another, one leader and other. The meaning of living and dying for the country can be known by the response, Modi said. “They killed our soldiers in Uri, our soldiers went inside their territory, conducted a surgical strike and came back. The next day a newspaper said they (in Pakistan) carried bodies in trucks,” he said.
ALSO READ Gujarat Elections | All the ‘kichad’ thrown at me will help lotus bloom: PM Modi Modi alleged that the Congress raised questions on the surgical strike in September 2016. “They could not respect Indian Army, they asked questions like none of our soldiers was injured? None of them died? Have you any photo or video evidence? Had they gone to shoot a movie in Pakistan?” he said. “When you go to the house of the poor and eat rotis, you ensure that you are filmed, but does that mean that a surgical strike should be filmed?” the prime minister asked.Modi will address a series of campaign meetings today and on Wednesday in Saurashtra and South Gujarat, which go to the polls on December 9. The second phase of elections to the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held on 14. The votes will be counted on December 18.

In Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi targets PM Modi on Rafale deal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi alleged on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi single-handedly finalised the Rafale fighter jets deal without following the due procedure.”When Modi ji went to France, he changed Rafale contract, without consulting anyone. Instead of giving contract to company which knows how to build an aircraft, he gave it to his industrialist friend who knows nothing about it. Defence Minister was in Goa then,” Gandhi said while addressing a public gathering here, ahead of Gujarat assembly polls in December.During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France in 2015, India and France announced a government-to-government deal wherein the air force would receive 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition as soon as possible.
ALSO READ Rahul Gandhi’s calls to Sharad Yadav sealed Congress-Vasava deal in GujaratAccording to the contract, the components of the jets would be manufactured by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.However, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, earlier, said the acquisition process of Rafale fighter jets got delayed because of the inaction by United Progressive Alliance (UPA), while it was in power for ten years until 2014.
ALSO READ ‘Hugplomacy fail’: Rahul Gandhi takes a dig at PM Modi as US delinks Haqqani network from LashkarThe defence minister said when Modi-led government came to power in 2014, the situation was ‘grim’ and that they “had to move quickly forward so that the air force was not left unattended”.The Congress has also accused the government of buying the jets at an exorbitant price, paying three times the price negotiated by UPA-2 in 2012.

When will Parliament’s Winter Session begin? Cabinet Committee to fix dates on Friday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid reports of the Winter Session of Parliament beginning from December 15, the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs is set to meet tomorrow.The Committee will meet at 10 AM on Friday to finalise the schedule and agenda of the upcoming Winter Session.This would put end to all speculations over the dates of the last Parliament session of the year.Earlier on Wednesday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that the schedule of the Winter Session and the Assembly Elections won’t overlap.“We are going to ensure that a regular Winter Session is held but we will make sure that the Parliament session and (Assembly) election dates don’t overlap,” Jaitley said while addressing media on the cabinet decisions.The Opposition, especially the Congress has been attacking the government for delaying the Winter Session. The party says in view of the Gujarat Assembly Elections, the Centre is trying to evade discussion on issues the Opposition want to raise during Winter Session like scams of ministers, Rafale deal, GST and note ban.On Thursday, Sitaram Yechury, the Marxist leader, while speaking at an event also attacked the government for delaying the Winter Session of Parliament.”The BJP does not want to hold the session as they know the opposition will raise issues related to the business activities of Jay Shah and Shaurya Doval and the Rafale deal for this can cost them in the Gujarat assembly polls,” he said.Yechury accused the government of “playing with parliamentary democracy for the sake of victory in a state assembly election”.(With PTI input)

‘Why no questions on PM Modi over Rafale deal,’ Rahul Gandhi asks media

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale fighter aircraft agreement and asked the media why it did not question him for allegedly changing the “entire deal” to benefit a businessman.”I answer all your questions, whatever you ask me. Why don’t you question Prime Minister Modi on the Rafale deal. Why don’t you question the prime minister who changed the entire Rafale deal to help a businessman?” he asked.He was speaking to reporters after the meeting of the newly formed All India Unorganised Workers Congress (AIUWC).He expressed satisfaction over the formation of AIUWC and said he felt good interacting with them.Earlier this week, the Congress accused the government of compromising national interest and security while promoting “crony capitalism” and causing a loss to the public exchequer.The BJP rubbished the allegation, claiming it was intended to “divert attention” as the party bigwigs faced the prospect of being questioned in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scandal.The Congress’ communications department head Randeep Surjewala alleged that the government neglected the interests of public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).Dassault Aviation, the French manufacturer of Rafale aircraft, refused to transfer technology to it and instead entered into an agreement with Reliance Defence.He also alleged that the aircraft was being purchased at much higher rates than what was decided after the completion of the tender process under the previous UPA government.

Rafale deal: Reliance Defence Limited rebuts Congress allegations of getting favour, threatens legal action

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As political controversy kicked in over Congress allegations that industrialist Anil Ambani’s company was favoured by the government in Rafale deal, Reliance Defence Limited has rebutted the allegations as “baseless and unfounded”.It sought to flag what it called “factual inaccuracies” in the statement made by AICC Communication department chief Randeep Surjewala on Tuesday. Regarding the allegation that Ambani, owner of Reliance Defence Limited was present in France with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the later visited in April 2015 announced the deal for purchase of 36 Rafale Fighter Aircrafts, the RDL said, Anil Ambani is a member of Indo French CEO Forum and in the said meeting, more than 20 Indian CEOs were present including Chairman of HAL D Suvrana Raju and othersSurjewala had alleged that on February 16, 2017, Reliance Defence Limited through its subsidiary Reliance Defence and Aerospace Limited inked a joint venture with Dassault Aviation for defence production and that the company’s website R. Infra reflects that they are undertaking offset obligations of 30,000 crore with Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafel aircrafts. The company said that In the official press statement issued by Dassault and Reliance on 03 October 2016, it is clearly mentioned that offfset obligations are to be undertaken by Dassault Reliance Aerospace joint venture company and not by Reliance Defence. “Reliance Group does not have any company by the name of Reliance Defence & Aerospace Ltd. Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd will be only one of the key players in the discharge of offset obligations.The RDL further said that over 500 large, medium and small Indian companies will benefit from the offsets which are nothing but an export obligation for goods and services from India and that offsets referred to are spread over a period of nearly 10 years.Regarding the Congress question as to why did the Prime Minister promote the interests of one industrial group- Reliance Defence Limited, which has led to the company tying up and entering into a joint venture with Dassault Aviation, the RLD said that the joint venture between Reliance Aerostructure Ltd and Dassault Aviation is a bilateral agreement between two private companies and Dassault Aviation selected Reliance Aerostructure Ltd as its joint venture partner. “The Indian Government has no role to play in this,” it said.Replying to the allegation why has the joint venture for the biggest-ever Indian defence deal between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence Limited not gone through the proper procedure of approval by the Union Cabinet, Cabinet Committee on Security and Foreign Investment Promotion Board, the company said that the government policy issued on June 24, 2016 allows for 49% FDI in the Defence Sector under the automatic route, without any prior approval.“No approvals from the Union Cabinet or CCS were required for the formation of the aforesaid Joint Venture company under the automatic route,” the RDL said. “”From the above it is very obvious that all allegations are unfounded and false. We request the AICC to correct the facts as stated by us. We reserve the right to take appropriate legal action against any party that disseminates these defamatory allegations,” the RDL said.

Govt favouring capitalist friends in Rafale deal: Cong

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after BJP sought to ‘taint’ Congress general secretary in-charge for Gujarat Ashok Gehlot over Potash scam, the Congress on Tuesday hit back alleging a ‘huge scam” in the procurement of 36 ‘Rafale Fighter Aircrafts’ from Dassault Aviation of France.Accusing the Modi government of compromising ‘national interests’ and ‘national security’, Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala alleged that Modi government announced the purchase deal of the fighter aircrafts without following defence procurement procedure, and helped a private company in bypassing the interests of a reputed public sector undertaking like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.He also alleged the Modi government of “promoting interests of Prime Minister’s crony capitalist friends”.”A huge scam is brewing in the procurement of fighter aircrafts for Indian Air Force. Grave apprehensions and claims of insurmountable loss being caused to public exchequer are in public domain with the government maintaining a conspiratorial silence,” he said.Posing five questions over the issue, Surjewala asked why the Prime Minister promoted the interests of industrial group Reliance Defence Limited, which led to the company’s tie up for a joint venture with Dassault Aviation worth Rs 30,000 crore.Saying that the UPA government had negotiated 126 Rafale Aircrafts at a base price of $10.2 billion with transfer of technology, Surjewala asked whether it was correct for the NDA government to buy the 36 aircrafts at a rate which would cost $30.45 billion for 126 aircrafts without transfer of technology.Surjewala, however, downplayed questions as to why he was raising the issue now in the run up to Gujarat polls when all these things were in public domain for over an year. Answering a question on this, he said party leaders had earlier also raised in and outside Parliament but were then told that nothing was signed then. He said ever since the deal was signed in September 2016, the party was gathering information.

Maritime security top agenda for French minister visit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maritime security and technological partnership under the Make In India programme while keeping the Rafale fighter jets deal in mind will top the agenda during the two-day visit of French Defence Minister Florence Parly starting Friday. She will meet her counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.The possibility of selling more Rafale fighter jets to the Indian Air Force could also come up in the deliberations.Significantly, the French Minister will visit Mihan near Nagpur where she will participate in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Dassault-Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), a joint venture between the two companies that will carry out offset requirements as part of the Rafale deal.India has already finalised a deal for purchase of 36 French Rafale fighter jets, but with the Indian Air Force expressing the need for more, the facility can be used for future manufacturing.”DRAL will be part of the upcoming Aerospace Park in Nagpur and plans to develop an indigenous value-added supply chain, thereby building a strong base for the success of the Rafale programme under the Make In India initiative,” a statement from the French Embassy said.Cooperation on maritime security is crucial in wake of increasing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean Region.The French Minister will also visit Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) and the Western Naval Command in Mumbai. At MDL shipyard, she will visit the yard where Scorpene submarines are being made in India with transfer of technology under the P75 project by MDL. She will also board the INS Kalvari, the first of these six Scorpene submarines delivered to the Indian Navy.Joint exercises between armed armed forces of the two countries counter-terrorism will also be part of the defence cooperation initiatives that will be discussed.

IAF Chief Dhanoa on 4-day trip to France to boost defence ties

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chief of Air Staff B S Dhanoa left for France today on a four-day visit to ramp up cooperation between the air forces of the two countries in a range of areas, the Indian Air Force said today. Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa will also take stock of progress in the supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets by French aviation major Dassault to the IAF under a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal inked in September last year. The fighter jets will be capable of carrying nuclear weapons and be equipped with the latest missiles that will give the IAF greater “potency” over arch-rival Pakistan. Dhanoa is also likely to fly a sortie in a Rafale jet. During his stay, he is scheduled to hold talks with the top brass of the French armed forces on security challenges being faced by the two countries in the current geo-political scenario and explore ways to further deepen defence cooperation. The main focus of the visit will be on improving bilateral relations, promote defence ties and outline further areas of defence cooperation between the two countries, the IAF said in a statement. Defence and security ties between India and France have been on an upswing for the last couple of years and the two nations have resolved to strengthen the relationship further. The statement said boosting cooperation between the two air forces would be a focus area. The current cooperation between the two forces include military training and joint air exercises. Dhanoa will also visit the headquarters of the French air force and a few operational air bases. The Chief of the Air Staff will interact with the top echelon of the French military aviation industry and visit the Rafale PMT Infrastructure. The Rafale combat aircraft will come with various India- specific modifications including Israeli helmet mounted displays, radar warning receivers and low band jammers, among others. The Inter-Governmental Agreement for the supply of the jets was signed in September last year, 16 months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s plans to buy 36 Rafale aircraft in fly away condition. According to the deal, the delivery of the jets will start in 36 months and will be completed in 67 months from the date the contract is inked. This visit of the Air Chief would provide further impetus towards increasing defence cooperation between the two air forces and pave the way for greater interaction and cooperation in the future, the IAF said.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

PM Modi meets Frace’s Foriegn Minister at Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, seeks to bolster ties with Paris

Bengaluru: Seeking to give a greater momentum to their strategic relationship, India and France on Sunday discussed a wide spectrum of issues, including defence and terrorism, with the French side saying the bilateral ties should move forward with the speed of a Rafale fighter jet.

During the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault in Bengaluru, both leaders had “considerable” discussions on international terrorism of which the two countries are victims.

“I spoke about different aspects of our partnership,” Ayrault told reporters here on the sidelines of a function after his meeting with Modi, who was here to attend the 14th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the Centre’s outreach programme for overseas Indians.

Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. PTI

Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. PTI

The French minister, who began his three-day visit to India from here, said: “We spoke about defence because India needs to protect itself. Therefore, defence is an important area. I also shared with him concerns about terrorism and how we are together in fighting it.”

Noting that India has various defence needs, for example Rafale, he said, “It needs submarines, it needs helicopters. So we did discuss all of these.”

In September last year, India had inked a Euro 7.87 billion (about Rs 59,000 crore) deal with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons and equipped with latest missiles that will give the IAF greater “potency” over arch rival Pakistan.

In his media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swaroop said Ayrault and Modi reaffirmed close strategic partnerships between the two countries and deliberated upon several issues including bilateral relations in defence and international terrorism.

“The PM of India today welcomed the French Foreign Affairs Minister on his first visit to India. Both sides reaffirmed close strategic partnerships between India and France, which will be seen as a further fillip for the closure of Rafale deal,” he said on the sidelines of the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, in Bengaluru.

The French Minister said “the bilateral ties should now move forward with a speed of Rafale,” according to Swarup.

Swaroop also said both the leaders had a comprehensive drill on bilateral relations in defence and Modi reiterated upon “Make In India” slogan in defence.

The two leaders discussed about the cooperation in civil energy with specific reference to Jaitapur nuclear plant, he said.

On economic aspects, Swaroop said the French Foreign Minister spoke about the 20 billion Euros investment in India by French companies and he was looking forward to his participation in a Gujarat event (Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit) which would provide further opportunity for French companies to invest in India.

The two leaders also discussed French participation in sustainable development of Indian cities, where more than 60 French firms are working in sectors including transport and water.

Swaroop also said the French Minister reiterated the French support for India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership and permanent membership of UNSC.

“There was considerable discussion between two sides on international terrorism as we know both India and France are victims of terrorism…,” he said.

Ayrault said he and Modi also spoke about civil nuclear energy because it can contribute to India’s energy mix as the Indian Prime Minister has made a commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

Besides, space, another area of cooperation between the two countries as also the economic aspects of the Indo-French partnership and “multiple aspects of our investment” were covered during the talks, he said.

The issue of French companies investing in India in various domains like smart city, transport, energy, waste management and automobile was discussed, he said.

“We spoke about multiple aspects of our investment. Many French companies are present in India. We would also like Indian companies to invest in France. We must have the principle of reciprocity,” he said.

Ayrault said he would meet Modi again on Tuesday, when he would attend the “Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit” in Ahmedabad.

France is a partner country of the Summit.

The French minister, who began his visit to the country’s IT hub by going to a temple and Russel Market, an old landmark in the city, also highlighted the cultural aspects of the relationship between India and France.

At Alliance Francaise, Ayrault launched the Bengaluru chapter of France Alumni network, a digital platform to connect foreign students who have studied French in higher education institutes.

The network would help alumni acquire key industry knowledge and explore career opportunities.

Ayrault said 4,000 Indian students had come to France in 2016 “which is a low number” and he had set an “ambitious goal” to take it to 10,000 by 2020.

Swaroop said Modi also met Surinam Vice President Ashwin Adhin and discussed issues relating to various sectors such as agriculture, animal husbandry, palm oil and wood processing for improving bilateral cooperation.

Adhin said he saw considerable potential in Ayurveda in Surinam and sought India’s help to create an eco-system for propagation of Ayurveda and turn the country into Ayurveda capital, Swaroop said.

He said that Adhin also sought investments in various sectors such as pharmaceuticals and mining.

He said Adhin sought an early meeting of India-Surinam joint commission to take forward bilateral cooperation.

The two leaders also discussed global issues such as UNSC and Adhin reaffirmed Surinam’s support to India for its permanent membership.

The Prime Minister also met Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam and discussed about some bilateral issues.

They also discussed about Modi’s visit to Malaysia in 2015, Swaroop said.

He said the Prime Minister is looking forward to the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit to India.

First Published On : Jan 8, 2017 21:53 IST

India to select one more single engine fighter than Tejas: Manohar Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Cutting down competition as of now to just two fighters – F-16 by Lockheed Martin and Gripen by Saab – Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday said India will select one more single engine aircraft other than Tejas for indigenous manufacture under ‘Make in India’ route.His making it clear that the aircraft would be single engine means that double engine aircraft like F/A 18 by Boeing and Rafale by Dassault Aviation, both preparing for India’s next round of multi-billion deal for fighters, are out of the race. Just-retired IAF chief Arup Raha had said India required about 200 medium weight category aircraft besides the 36 Rafale fighters. Parrikar also made it clear that navy will continue supporting the development of naval version of Tejas but the current one will be just a technology demonstrator. He said that the navy is seeking a double engine aircraft.He said when India decides to go for a twin-engine fighter to be made here, the government will also consider the Rafale. But as of now there are no plans to procure any additional aircraft, he added.Talking about the next fighter competition of India, Parrikar said the need for a second production line for single engine aircraft is felt besides the one for Tejas. “The second line of single engine requirement is also felt for which we are thinking of using the strategic partnership route,” he said.The Defence Minister said once the chapter on strategic partnership is finalised this month, his ministry will start moving in the direction of single engine fighter aircraft.He said by the end of this year, decisions on the next aircraft should be tentatively finished. Parrikar said few of the initial aircraft may come off the shelf by the “rest would be made in India increasing the Indian capability in aviation”. He said the process for the next fighter aircraft will include both selection through normal process and government- to-government contract.”Selection of the local partner would be through a transparent and well defined process,” he said, adding that capabilities and financial strength would also be looked into. “Once you select the local partner, the OEM obviously will be selected through a process of the way we do it. It means who gives the best offer, Transfer of Technology and many other things and price. There will be weightage to both to both,” he said. Parrikar added that once the company is selected, there will be a government-to-government contract to ensure that the other government stands guarantee to the promises made by the firm in terms of technology transfer and other issues.

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