PM heading to Berlin, Germany to pitch for Eurofighter

November 25th, 2010 - 8:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Manish Chand
New Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) Germany is set to sharpen its pitch for selling Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets to India when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to Berlin next month, a day-long trip that will focus on expanding the strategic relationship between the two would-be non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Manmohan Singh is expected to fly to Berlin Dec 11 for a day-long visit after attending India’s summit with the 27-nation European Union (EU) in Brussels.

This will be the second visit by Manmohan Singh to Berlin since he became the country’s prime minister over six years ago.

Manmohan Singh and Merkel met recently at the G20 summit of major and emerging economies in Seoul. A bilateral visit by Manmohan Singh to Germany has been in the making for some time, but it was only last week it was decided to include a day-long visit to Berlin to the prime minister’s itinerary that was earlier confined to a stand-alone visit to Brussels for the India-EU summit.

Manmohan Singh and Merkel, who enjoy a special chemistry, are expected to focus on expanding defence relationship and enlarging the scope of their strategic dialogue on key global issues like UN reforms, the international financial crisis, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and climate change.

The UN reforms will be a key item on agenda, a senior official, who did not wish to be names, told IANS.

Significantly, the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Merkel will take place barely weeks before India and Germany join the UN Security Council as non-permanent members Jan 1, 2011. “This explains the focus on a dialogue over big-picture global issues,” said the official.

Both countries are in favour of unity among G-4 countries (India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) to realise their collective quest for permanent seats on an expanded United Nations Security Council (UNSC), a point that was made forcefully by German ambassador to India Thomas Matussek recently.

Germany, on its part, is set to make a renewed pitch for the Eurofighter project at a time when the contest for a $10.4 billion tender for supplying 126 fighter aircraft to India is intensifying by the day.

Germany will contend that the Eurofighter offer is unique as it involves technology transfer and is likely to stress that it is ready to forgo the End-User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) that even India’s close partners like the US insist on, an informed source disclosed.

Early this week, the German envoy outlined the attractions of the Eurofighter Typhoon at a speech at the Indian Council for World Affairs. “We are here for the long haul…We are even forgoing the End-User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) and offering complete transfer of technology. We would like India to work closely with us in the future development of the aircraft,” he had said.

Germany, which is leading the Eurofighter consortium of several leading defence giants in Europe including EADS and BAE Systems, is hoping that India takes a favorable decision on the Eurofighter by the time Merkel comes here in the summer next year, the source disclosed.

The Eurofighter Typhoon will be competing against the US F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-16IN Super Viper, Sweden’s Gripen, France’s Rafale and Russia’s MiG-35 to win the Indian Air Force’s medium multi-role combat ircraft (MMRCA) project, touted as the mother of all defence deals.

Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy have come together to pitch for the Typhoon. British Defence Secretary Liam Fox extolled the Typhoon during his visit to India, saying it performed brilliantly in the field trials conducted by the IAF.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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