NEW DELHI: Union Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar on Monday assured his visiting French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian that he would do everything in his power to expedite the Rafale deal.
Parikkar gave the assurance when Drian raised the issue of multi-billion deal, besides the short-range surface-to-air missile project at the meeting held at the Navy Officer’s mess, instead of the Defence Minister’s Office in the South Block.
The French Minister pointed out that the Maitri missile project, a joint development and production between India’s DRDO and MBDA of France that was initiated in 2007, was yet to take-off. This was despite the signing of an MoU between the two countries during French President Francois Hollande’s India visit in in February last year.
Drian had in August written a letter to Parikkar’s predecessor in the Ministry of Defence(MoD), Arun Jaitley and raised his concern over the prolonged delay in the project. Recently, the IAF had made expressed reservations about the project. The Centre has, however, not yet taken a concrete stand on the matter.
The Rafale deal, meanwhile, is in its last leg of completion and is expected to be signed in the last quarter of the current fiscal.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had in June met Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Jaitley and pushed for early purchase of Rafale combat jet planes.
India had struck the deal for `60,000 crore three years ago, but the negotiations are still on between the MoD and French firm Dassault Aviation to sort out the issues regarding the pricing and work-sharing.