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'France eyes joint military operations with India'

delhi Updated: Oct 18, 2010 19:21 IST
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France hopes to forge closer military ties with India through arms co-production and joint field operations, Defence Minister Herve Morin said in comments published on Monday.

"We could intensify our cooperation at the theatres of operation where both our armed forces are deployed -- piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden being such a case," Morin said in an interview with Indian Defence Review magazine.

"We could also develop more armament programmes that are efficient and adapted to the needs of both armed forces," he added.

Morin also sought to promote the French-built Rafale aircraft, which Dassault hopes to sell to India as part of a deal for 126 fighter jets worth 12 billion dollars.

"I am sure that the field trials, completed in spring 2010, would have enabled the Indian air force and the ministry of defence to gauge fully the quality of this aircraft," he said.

Besides Dassault, five other global aeronautical firms are in the race for the jet deal.

US-based Lockheed Martin's F-16, and Boeing's F-18 "Superhornet" emerged as the front-runners following the gruelling trials.

Dassault is however poised to pick up a 1.2-billion dollar contract to revamp 56 Mirage-2000 aircraft that France sold India nearly two decades ago.

The deal is expected to be finalised during French President Nicholas Sarkozy's scheduled visit to India in December.