Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said India has taken a host of measures to attract investments in the defence manufacturing sector and is open to any further tax rationalisation that may be required to encourage the 'Make in India' initiative in the sector.
Addressing a delegation of CEOs representing some of France's leading defence industry majors at the end of his three-day visit to the country, the minister also highlighted the recent cut in corporate tax rate as well as the steps taken to improve the ease of doing business in India.
"For 'Make in India' in defence, if there is need for further tax rationalisation, it may be considered suitably," Singh said.
"We have undertaken significant economic reforms to improve the ease of doing business and open up the economy for investments. The government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opened up defence sector manufacturing to a large extent under the 'Make in India' initiative. We have implemented across the country a single Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is the biggest tax reform since our independence and we have recently reduced our corporate tax significantly," he said.
The minister, who arrived in France to receive the symbolic delivery of the first of the 36 Rafale combat jets acquired by the Indian government to enhance the Indian Air Force (IAF) defence capabilities, said his visit reflected the depth of the India-France partnership in the defence industrial sector.
He said: "India is open to explore opportunities of co-production of high-end defence equipment and seeks collaborations to modernise our shipyards and defence platforms by the infusion of technology.
"French firms can make India its base for production of defence equipment, not only for India's large market but also for export to other countries."
Stressing on India's substantial requirements of aero engines, both in civil and military domains, Singh said the country is open to explore an aero engine complex on a government-to-government basis.
"I hope this meeting will provide traction to our pitch for 'Make in India' and will be equally beneficial for you to engage with us," the minister said, as he extended a formal invite to the nearly dozen captains of French defence industry to participate in the DefExpo in Lucknow next year.
The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, who flagged some of the attractions of his parliamentary constituency and home state as a great hub of culture and industry, called on French companies to explore the attractive terms for investment in both of India's defence industrial corridors - Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
"We wish to create a new manufacturing hub for companies operating in the field of defence aviation, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology," he said.
Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault Aviation, who had hosted the minister on Tuesday for the formal induction ceremony of the Rafale aircraft for the IAF at Merginac Airport in Bordeaux, was among the group of high-level CEOs who participated in Wednesday's meeting.
Bruno Berthet, CEO of RAFAUT, Andre Piaton, CEO of Sogitec Industries, Jacques Declaux, CEO of Roxel, and Alan Guillou, CEO of the Naval Group, were among some of the other captains of French industry in the defence manufacturing space who were present to discuss synergies with the 'Make in India' initiative.
Many have already indicated their intention to participate in the DefExpo to be held in Lucknow from February 5 to 8, 2020, the theme of which is "Digital Transformation of Defence".
Barun Mitra, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Defence, gave a detailed presentation on the DefExpo and highlighted the USD 130 billion market opportunity on offer in India's defence sector.
The meeting with the French defence industry leaders concludes Singh's official visit to the European nation, which also included a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron and the second India-France defence dialogue with Armed Forces minister Florence Parly.