Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make In India campaign has infused new energy in French defence companies to start manufacturing units in the country. India is expected to invest $200 billion in the next decade to modernise its armed forces.
While some of the French defence companies have already tied up with Indian companies to start defence manufacturing units in India, their concern remains no clarity in policy and unavailability of skill manpower to meet the "new challenge".
French defence companies have linked up projects worth $35 billion for Indian armed forces including Dassault Aviation's Rafale jet fighters, short-range surface-to-air missiles (SRSAM) and mid-air refuellers. Some of these deals are in final stage of negotiations and the French companies are expecting positive response from the government in early 2015.
"We are encouraged by Make In India campaign and expect quick decision from the new government," said Jean-Michel Domitrovic, head of international affairs in Nexter, a company specializing in heavy road equipment for Army. The company already has an agreement with Ashok Leyland and Larsen and Toubro for manufacturing mounted ground system (MGS) apart from 1,480 total gun system (TGS) that will be domesticated.
Adding to this campaign, MBDA is working on the Indian design of its SRSAM missile called Maitri with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The company is also working with DRDO on Akash Mark 2 missile for the Indian Air Force. "We expect decision on the programme soon," said Jean-Paul Faye, head of battlefield and new cooperation division at MBDA.
Another French major DCNS, which is building Scorpene submarines for Indian Navy through its domestic partner Mazgaoin Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, it is eyeing Rs 16,000 crore amphibious warships, called Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) project. DCNS has tied up with Indian private shipyard Pipavav for this project. The French defence companies also want to sell high grade defence equipment to monitor the space and to improve space intelligence.
(The author's visit was sponsored by the French government)