Aircraft Deal High on Agenda during French Minister's Visit
NEW DELHI: Delays in India’s bid to sign an estimated Rs 1-lakh-crore deal for 126 combat aircraft is all set to be on the discussion table when France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visits here later this month seeking to ramp up engagement with the new Narendra Modi Government.
Fabius’ visit will coincide with the official talks on counter-terrorism efforts between a team of French experts and their Indian counterparts, against the backdrop of recent Herat terror strikes in Afghanistan targeting the Indian embassy. Giving details of these meetings here during a media interaction on Thursday, French Ambassador to India Francois Richer said his country’s foreign minister’s talks will encompass all spectrum of bilateral ties, including defence.
He was responding to reporters’ query if any senior French official was expected to visit India soon to discuss the 2007 combat aircraft tender in which the country had selected the French firm Dassault Aviation’s ‘Rafale’ aircraft as the winner.
The media interaction had been called for giving details about the on going Indo-French air combat exercises, named Garuda-5, in the Jodhpur air base, where the Rafale planes having been flown in from Abu Dhabhi by the French Air Force.
Richier said “significant progress” had been made on the combat jets deal recently after the serious issues relating to work share between Dassault Aviation and the Indian collaborator Hindustan Aeronautics Limited had been finalised.
While Dassault Aviation is to supply 18 of the 126 planes in fly-away state, the rest of the fleet is to be manufactured at HAL under a technology transfer and licensed production arrangement.
The Ambassador noted that all negotiations of the deal were “not completed” and the two sides were still working out the finer details. On earlier reports of a middleman getting involved on behalf of the French aviation firm to sell the Mirage-2000 combat planes to New Delhi, Richier said the company had already clarified on the matter in writing.