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France withdraws from submarine project ahead of Modi’s trip

PM is scheduled to meet newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday
Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi.
File photo

PTI   |   New Delhi   |   Published 04.05.22, 03:14 AM

The French company Naval Group on Tuesday said it would not be able to take part in a submarine project of the Indian government envisioned under Narendra Modi’s pet Aatmanirbhar Bharat project, a day before the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit Paris.

The Naval Group cited certain conditions mentioned in the requests for proposal related to the air independent propulsion system under the P-75I project, under which six conventional submarines are to be domestically built for the Indian Navy.

Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to meet newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday.

The air independent propulsion (AIP) system allows a conventional submarine to stay submerged in water at higher speeds for a longer period of time.

In June last year, the defence ministry had cleared the P-75I project. Subsequently, requests for proposal (RFPs) were issued to two shortlisted Indian companies — the privately owned Larsen and Toubro and the state-run Mazagaon Docks Limited.

The two Indian companies (called strategic partners) have to tie up with one of the five shortlisted foreign firms — ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Navantia (Spain), the Naval Group (France), Daewoo (South Korea) and Rosoboronexport (Russia) — and then respond to the RFPs, according to the Indian defence ministry.

The Rs 43,000-crore contract will be awarded by the defence ministry following a detailed evaluation of the responses sent by the two strategic partners.

In a statement on Tuesday, Laurent Videau, the country and managing director of Naval Group India, said: “Due to certain conditions in the RFP, the two strategic partners could not forward the request to us and a few other FOEMs (foreign original equipment manufacturers) and thus we have not been able to place an official bid for the project.”

The Naval Group has always been ready to offer the best-in-class and adapted solution for the Indian Navy’s P75I project, being fully in line with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat principle, he said.

“…The present RFP requires that the fuel cell AIP (air independent propulsion) be sea proven, which is not the case for us yet since the French Navy does not use such propulsion system,” the statement from Videau said.

Nevertheless, the Naval Group strengthens its existing commitments and looks forward for closer association with India, he said.

“Our focus and efforts are towards continuation of our collaboration with Indian industry in realising the vision of the Government of India by supporting the Indian Navy for other future developments and projects (maintenance, high tech tools, indigenous AIP, incremental improvements in Scorpene-designed submarine, heavyweight torpedoes, larger ships, etc),” the statement said.

India is one of the largest importers of arms globally.

The Centre wants to reduce dependence on imported military platforms and has been boosting domestic defence manufacturing.

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