New Delhi: All references to a Memorandum of Understanding for three Scorpene-class submarines were removed from a later version of the India-France bilateral document on the future roadmap of ties. This MoU had been mentioned in an earlier version of the uploaded text.
Official sources claimed that the previous document was not the approved text and “some earlier negotiating text got uploaded.”
This comes after the absence of any Rafale jet deal in the roadmap.
After delegation-level talks between Indian and French leaders in Paris on Friday, July 14, a slew of diplomatic documents were issued by both sides. The joint communique was a short text, with the substantial document being the ‘Horizon 2047 – 25th Anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership, Towards A Century of India-France Relations’.
Based on the uploaded Horizon 2047 document on the MEA’s website, The Wire, as well as other Indian media outlets, had reported that there was an absence of the expected deal for purchasing 26 additional Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Navy.
Besides, the text also had mentioned that India and France “welcome the MoU between Mazgon Dockyard Ltd and Naval Group for the construction of three additional submarines under the P75 programme”.
Both the deals had been approved by India’s Defence Acquisition Council and announced by the Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh on his Twitter account a day earlier on Thursday. While the price was still to be negotiated, the total cost of both the deals was estimated around $9.5 billion.
However, on Saturday morning, India time, the line about the MoU for the three additional submarines had disappeared.
A cached version of the earlier uploaded text shows the difference.
Sources told The Wire that an earlier text from the negotiation stage got uploaded on the MEA website for a short period of time and that it was “not the agreed upon text, in any way”.
Further, sources added that the approved text now on the website is also the same one published by the French government.
Another change made in the current version is the deletion of the deadline to prepare a roadmap for joint development of a combat aircraft engine – originally scheduled to be finalised before the end of this year. The proposal for joint development remains, but this line has been removed – “A roadmap on this project will be prepared between Safran and DRDO before the end of this year”.
In a press release, the Naval Group, too, had mentioned the opportunity to continue its “15-year submarine building cooperation” with Mazgaon Dockyard Limited.
Pierre Eric Pommellet, CEO of the Naval Group, had said, “We welcome the declarations made during the Indian Prime Minister’s historic participation to the French National Day, to continue and further strengthen our 15-year submarine building cooperation, which is a major element of the Indo-French strategic partnership developed over the past decades. Naval Group and its partners will be fully mobilised to meet the expectations of Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited and the Indian industry to fulfil the needs of the Indian Navy.”
It is still not clear why the two deals are not part of deliverables when India’s DAC had initially green lit them.
This question especially arises considering that the initial draft text did have the new Scorpene submarine deal – which was later taken out in the approved text, as sources had claimed.
Incidentally, Dassault Aviation issued a press release after the release of the 2047 roadmap, stating that India has announced that it had chosen the Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Navy.
At the press briefing after the talks, the foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra had been questioned by reporters on the absence of the Rafale fighter jet deals in any of the diplomatic documents, especially the roadmap.
He did not address this directly, but claimed that the “2047 Horizon document looks at security and sovereignty in a more holistic and a comprehensive manner rather than as a set of individual transactions”.
“The reason for that is because the metrics of defence partnership are not defined by a single acquisition or a non-acquisition, single procurement or a single transaction,” he had said, on Friday, in Paris.
While the additional Rafale fighter jets deal was not mentioned – and the three Scorpene submarines line has been removed after publication – the 2047 Horizon roadmap does mention other transactions like the one between HAL and Safran on the Shakti engine.