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Sitharaman visits Rafale manufacturing facility in France

Press Trust of India  |  Paris 

Friday visited a production facility of French near where the jets to be supplied to are being manufactured, official sources said.

They said during her visit to the plant in Argenteuil, Sitharaman spoke to officials of the Aviation, the makers of Rafale, and took stock of progress in production of the fighter jets whose delivery to will begin in September next year.

Sitharaman arrived in Thursday on a three-day visit in the midst of a massive controversy over the procurement of 36 jets under a Rs 58,000 crore government-to-government deal between and

Last evening, Sitharaman held wide-ranging talks with her French counterpart on ways to deepen the strategic and defence cooperation between the two countries.

The talks were held under the framework of the annual Indo-French defence ministerial dialogue which was agreed to during the summit meeting between and French in March.

The two defence ministers comprehensively reviewed the entire gamut of the bilateral defence cooperation, which is a key pillar of the India-strategic partnership, an official statement said.

They also exchanged views on contemporary regional and international developments of mutual interest.

Both sides discussed ways to deepen as well as operational level interactions. It was agreed to expand the scope and complexity of the regular joint exercises (SHAKTI, and GARUDA) in the future, the statement said.

Recognising that India-partnership in the Region is important for preserving and promoting the common strategic and security interests, the two leaders noted the continuing implementation of the "Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Region.

It was not immediately known whether the deal figured in the talks.

She also called on French and discussed issues of bilateral cooperation.

In her interaction with the top leaders of the French defence industry, Sitharaman urged them to undertake and expand their in India under the Make in India initiative as well as promote and R&D cooperation with Indian stakeholders such as Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bharat Earth Movers Limited, Goa Shipyard Limited, etc.

Sitharaman's visit to France came in the backdrop of a fierce political backlash between the ruling BJP and over the procurement of the jets.

In a report Wednesday, French publication Mediapart said Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, had to choose Ambani's firm as its offsets in India as a trade-off for getting the deal.

When asked about the allegations, Sitharaman said that offset obligations for the deal are mandatory but not the names of the companies.

In a statement, Dassault said it has "freely chosen to make a partnership with Reliance Group, as it rejected the report by French publication Mediapart".

The latest report followed former French Francois Hollande's comments last month that France was given "no choice" on selection of the Indian for Dassault and the proposed the name of the Indian company. Hollande was the French when the Rafale deal was sealed.

The has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal, saying the government was procuring each at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the when it was negotiating the deal.

The has also been targeting the government over selection of as an offset for Dassault.

The government has vehemently rejected the allegations and asserted that it did not have any role in the selection of

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, October 13 2018. 00:05 IST