French Defence Firms Back Modi's 'Make in India' Push

Snehesh Alex Philip/Paris
French Defence Firms Back Modi's 'Make in India' Push

With India expected to spend over USD 200 billion in the next decade to modernise its military, French defence firms are eyeing a piece of the cake and are ready to "adapt" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' push.

Though waiting for more clarity, French defence firms are scouting for partners as the new government in India pushes for indigenisation rather than buying off the shelf from foreign companies.

"Of course, if we had the choice we would rather prefer to build in our country but we have to adapt to the context. We know the trend is there. So the idea is more to see how to capture the trend," Jerome Penicaud, Bid Manager Surface Ships and Naval Systems Division of French defence giant DCNS, told PTI.

He was candidly replying to a question whether DCNS was happy about 'Make in India' push or would it have preferred to build ships in France only.

While DCNS is already building Scorpene submarines in India through their domestic partner Mazgaon Docks Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai, the next big project they are eyeing is the nearly Rs 16,000 crore amphibious warfare ships, called Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) project.

"For the LPD project, here the idea is that the ships are built by one of the Indian shipyards that has been selected. We are partners. We are here to bring the design and necessary technical assistance. That is the way we are addressing Make in India," he said.

DCNS has tied up with Indian private shipyard Pipavav for this project.

Other big project that DCNS is eyeing is the P75I of the Indian Navy under which six submarines will be built in India at a cost of about Rs 50,000 crore.

Sources indicted that DCNS is likely to sign a deal with MDL for this project.

Another major project that the French firms will be bidding for is the Rs 15,570 crore proposal to acquire 814 artillery guns.

While 100 such guns would be bought off the shelf, 714 would be made in India.

"It is one of the major deals that we can have around the world. You can imagine that for Nexter and our partner L&T, it is an important project," Jean-Michel Domitrovic, Executive Vice President of Nexter, told.

Without waiting for the formal tender -- Request for Proposal, the French firm has already tied up with Larsen and Toubro and Ashok Leyland to produce the 155mm/52 calibre mounted gun system being called Indian Caesar.

Asked how he sees the new government vis-a-vis the UPA, Domitrovic said the "problem" faced with the previous government was that it was difficult to know the decisions.

"With this new government we expect and we hope that decisions can be taken faster and we can have a better view of the acquisition process. Where we are, what is being planned for next month like that. It is very important for us," he said.

The Indian Army has not acquired artillery guns in the past three decades after the Bofors scam surfaced in 1986.

At least six tenders have been issued so far but were cancelled due to a number of reasons including blacklisting and single vendor scenario.

The plans to acquire such guns were first mooted under Army's Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP) formulated in 1999.

Domitrovic was also candid enough to say that it is "unacceptable" for a country like India not to have acquired any artillery guns since 1987.

Another French major MBDA, is equally eager to partner with Indian companies for various missile projects.

"We already have a joint partnership going on with Indian firms and are looking forward to deepening it," a senior MBDA official said.

One of the major decisions taken by the Modi government was to increase the FDI limit in defence sector to 49 per cent.

"The evolution from 26 per cent to 49 is positive. We are looking forward to any order on further evolution on that," Xavier Hay, Managing Director of Airbus Helicopters in India, told PTI.

Asked about 'Make in India', he said it is at an early stage.

"Let us see how it is structured," Hay said, pointing out that the firm already has a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

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