India may contribute to a Australia-French submarine project

20 July 2016

India may contribute to a submarine project involving Australia and France by obtaining sub-contracts in the initiative in what could be Delhi's first such foray in an international defence venture.

"India and Australia as decided during PM Narendra Modi's visit to Australia in 2014 have ventured into the areas of defence collaboration and joint research. While India's DRDO chief visited Australia, our top defence scientist visited this county to explore joint defence ventures. As part of this collaboration Indian firms may obtain sub-contracts in Australia's submarine project with France," Australia's High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu told ET in an exclusive interaction on the growing bilateral strategic and defence partnership.

India has experience with working on French submarines and this expertise can contribute to the Aussie-French project, said Sidhu. The Modi government has been working on a defence exports plan to friendly countries across continents. Couple of months back, France won $40 billion deal to build a fleet of 12 submarines for Australia. French state-owned defence firm DCNS won the contract with Australia, increasing defense budget to safeguard its strategic and trade interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

But it is not just defence that's driving India-Australia strategic ties as Canberra is pushing India's membership in the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) notwithstanding strong opposition from China. "Australia strongly supports India's bid for mem bership of the NSG and was disappointed that consensus was not reached on India's application for admission to the group at its recent plenary meeting... Australia will continue to work with other participating governments to resolve questions around admission of states not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. We consider it important for significant nuclear suppliers to be inside the tent rather than outside," said the Indian-origin High Commissioner.

Sidhu is also hopeful that Australian uranium exporters, which are private entities, would be able to supply the much needed metal to Indian recipients for power generation in future. Delhi and Canberra had signed civil nuclear deal in 2014, eyeing Australia's uranium reserves which are highest in the world.

However, uranium is not the only item that Australia is hoping to export as it seeks conclusion of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement to increase volume of bilateral trade. "This will have head-turning impact on IndiaAustralia economic partnership," the High Commissioner said, pointing out that Australia could be the market for Indian auto exporters. Australia is one of the biggest importers of motor cars.


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