India should have nuclear attack submarines

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France on Friday gave its backing to India developing a nuclear attack submarine fleet, with a senior naval officer saying it was a "legitimate" step as the country emerges as a major global force.

MUMBAI - The commander of the French Joint Forces in the Indian Ocean, Vice Admiral Gerard Valin, said India's military assets had to develop to reflect its position as a key world player, including in maintaining world stability.

Asked if that meant having nuclear attack submarines, he told reporters in Mumbai: "For me it's legitimate."

"A nuclear-propelled submarine gives you mobility. France has a nuclear deterrent. To have a nuclear deterrent you must have submarines capable of ensuring the security of a large area," he added.

"I think that India will be in the same situation" in the future, he said.

India's naval chief said in 2007 that the country's first domestically built nuclear-powered submarine would be ready for sea trials by this year.

The vessel is expected to be an adaptation of the Russian Charlie II class submarine and capable of firing nuclear warheads.

Since then, India has test-fired nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from undersea platforms as part of an ongoing programme to develop land and sea-borne nuclear and conventional missile systems.

France and India have been steadily developing military ties.

Last week the Indian and French navies took part in anti-submarine exercises off the coast of the western state of Goa, said Valin.

India's navy is also involved in the international effort to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa. Part of Valin's mandate is marine law enforcement, including targeting high seas hijacks by armed bandits in the same area.

In October 2005 India signed contracts worth 2.4 billion euros (3.8 billion dollars) with Armaris, which is owned by France's Thales, and European defence firm MBDA to buy six Scorpene submarines.

They are being assembled in India and are slated to begin operations from 2015.

French companies are also looking to make inroads into India's civilian atomic energy market, following the lifting last year of an embargo on nuclear deals with India imposed in 1974 after New Delhi staged nuclear tests.


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