NEW DELHI: French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tonight raised the issue of the multi-billion dollar deal for 126 Rafale combat aircraft during talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar who said it would be "resolved in a fast-tracked manner".
India had in 2012 selected Rafale aircraft in a deal estimated to be over Rs 60,000 crore but negotiations are still continuing between the Defence Ministry and the French firm Dassault Aviation.
"The talks were held in a cordial atmosphere. All issues relating to India-French defence cooperation were discussed," an official source said.
Asked if the Rafale deal was discussed during the talks at Kota House here, sources said that there are issues on which differences still exist between the two sides.
Parrikar told his French counterpart that "this would be resolved in a fast-tracked manner", they said. The final negotiations for the deal have been stuck on a number of issues including pricing and work-sharing.
As per the RFP issued in 2007, the first 18 jets are to be imported and the rest manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
According to the sources, Dassault was reluctant to stand guarantee for the 108 fighters to be built by HAL as far as liquidity damages and timelines for production are concerned.
This, the sources said, is the critical issue that is delaying the final inking.
The Defence Ministry is of the view that the guarantee clause was part of the Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQR) under the RFP that was issued. Dassault had agreed to the ASQR and hence was chosen the winner, the sources maintained.
"How can the ASQR be relaxed? This is not allowed under the Defence Procurement Procedure, 2013," a source said. This is the second time that France has raised the issue of Rafale with the NDA government since May.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley in June and had pushed for early purchase of Rafale combat jet planes.
Fabius had said France hopes that with the new government, which was keen on efficiency, the implementation of the decision will be swift and had expressed confidence of a "positive outcome" to the ongoing negotiations in the deal.
Asserting that there was a difference in "some time" and "too long", Fabius had said that Rafale meets all the requirements of India, including cutting-edge technology and highest quality.
Rafale, which would replace India's Russian-made fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-27 planes, had stood over combat aircraft manufactured by rivals like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
At present, India has 34 fighter jet squadrons (16-18 planes in each) against the projected need of 45 squadrons.
The French Defence Minister presented Parrikar with two photographs of Indian soldiers in World War 1.
Both the leaders also agreed that Indo-French Strategic Partnership of 1998 will be taken forward.