Economy

India, France tight-lipped on Rafale deal

NAYANIMA BASU New Delhi | Updated on January 19, 2018

Francois Richier, Ambassador of France, has said terrorism will be a major issue of discussion between the two leaders

A Rafale fighter jet flies over the factory of French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation in Merignac near Bordeaux during a visit by the French President March 4, 2015. The visit takes place after Egypt signed a 5.2 billion-euro deal in February to buy French weaponry, an agreement for 24 Rafale combat jets made by Dassault Aviation, a multi-mission naval frigate, and air-to-air missiles. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (FRANCE - Tags: BUSINESS MILITARY TRANSPORT)

Pricing of jets has been an irritant

India and France remained tight-lipped on the $9 billion-Rafale jet fighter defence deal even as the stage in laid out to welcome French President Francois Hollande as the Republic Day chief guest.

"Discussions are taking place (on the Rafale deal). Complex negotiations are underway. Can’t say what will be the outcome. It’s not finalised yet. I am hopeful but hopeful does not mean certitude,” French Ambassador to India Francois Richier told reporters here on Friday as he refused to divulge any further details.

Last year Prime Minister Modi had finalised the deal by slimming it down from the original proposal of buying 126 of these jets from French Dassault Aviation, to buying only 36 warplanes in flyaway condition.

This was decided when Modi had visited France last year in April.

Since then the talks were expedited between both sides. But the biggest stumbling block that had emerged since then was that of pricing of per jet plane. Besides, India had also requested for a specific change in design of these planes so as to suit the needs of its armed forces.

India Air Force is in dire need of advanced fighter jets as it grapples with outdated warplanes. By 2017, four MiG-21 and five MiG-27 squadrons will hit the hay from the Air Force.

According to Vikas Swarup, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) the negotiations are in an “advanced stage.”

The French envoy also said post the horrific Paris and Pathankot terrorist attack, talks on counter-terrorism will dominate the agenda of both the leaders.

"Highlight will be terrorism in view of the situation we are in at present, state of emergency, military operations in Syria, Iraq and in Africa, even the situation in India. This is an occasion not only to remind everybody but to pull certain number of steps in this direction of combating terrorism and this will be high on the agenda," Richier said.

Besides, climate change is also going to feature prominently in the talks between both sides, especially in the field of solar energy, Richier said.

"We will also work on energy storage. We will, of course, have an element of solar. We will have also announcement in the field of space. There will be a new project of space programme in relation to observation and prevention of climate change. We will have project in the wind energy. Investment will be announced," he added.

Hollande, who is arriving here for three-day tour, will be addressing a Business Summit with Modi in Chandigarh, which is the first stop for the French President.

Some of the companies accompanying Hollande are – Dassault Aviation, Airbus, CapGemini, Alcatel Lucent, Michelin, Lafarge, Solaire Direct, Areva and Alstom among others.

The next day on January 25 both leaders will be holding the bilateral meeting where a number of agreements will be signed. Post that both leaders will be travelling to Gwal Pahari, Gurgaon to lay the foundation stone of the Interim Secretariat of International Solar Alliance.

Hollande will be the fifth French leader to be the Chief Guest at Republic Day, a rare honour given by India to any country.

In an unusual move, this year even French troops will be marching along side Indian troops during the Republic Day parade.

Published on January 22, 2016

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