India, France vow to boost trading ties

27th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

NEW DELHI, Oct 27 (AFP) - India and France promised Wednesday to strengthen relations and boost trade during talks which were dominated by possible multi-billion dollar military deals.

NEW DELHI, Oct 27 (AFP) - India and France promised Wednesday to strengthen relations and boost trade during talks which were dominated by possible multi-billion dollar military deals.

Visiting French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and his Indian counterpart Natwar Singh began their discussions with a pledge to strengthen cooperation, bolster trade, support each other in the United Nations on international issues and jointly combat terrorism.

But Indian officials said Barnier's two-day visit would mainly focus on ongoing talks on the possible sale to India of military jets, missiles, submarines, warships and commercial aircraft worth billions of dollars.

The visit was clouded by disclosures that Dassault used middlemen to push the sale of 10 military jets to India.

The two sides stoutly denied that kickbacks were involved although the French aeronautic group conceded that it had hired Panama-based agents in 1996.

The Indian Air Force ordered 10 Mirage 2000H fighters from Dassault Aviation which are expected to be delivered by the end of the year.

Barnier played down the Mirage controversy. "Very frankly it's an affair about which there is a ruling in a French court. I am not going to comment.

The Indian authorities have very clearly and publicly stated this position," he told a press conference.

He said he was looking forward to talks with Indian authorities to clinch a sale of six French-made Scorpene submarines to India worth EUR 2 billion (USD 2.5 billion).

Airbus is also hoping to wrap up the sale to Indian Airlines of 43 A-320s for more than USD 2 billion.

"The EU is India's main trade partner and French exports to India must expand," Barnier said.

He said Paris also wants to develop people-to-people contacts and a political dialogue.

"India is a truly, genuine strategic partner of India," he said before a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has vowed to remove obstacles to the inflow of foreign capital.

Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said bilateral business potentials remained largely untapped.

"We had an extensive and comprehensive exchange of views on trade, bilateral and international issues," Singh said, adding that both sides also discussed Iraq and the Palestinian situation.

Barnier was also to call on Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and coalition government convenor Sonia Gandhi.

Barnier said France supports India's application for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

"Today's world is a dangerous place and so we have to work together in the UN system and that is why we feel India has a rightful place in the United Nations Security Council," the French minister said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article