NEW DELHI: Visiting French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who has taken along a high-level delegation with top executives from Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of the Rafale fighter jet, had a 90-minute discussion on the multi-medium role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal with his counterpart Manohar Parrikar here on Tuesday.
Though officials of the Ministry of Defence were tightlipped on the meeting’s outcome, sources indicated that no major breakthrough was made in it.
France had been seeking an appointment with Parrikar, as Indian officials hadn’t given a hearing to the representatives of the defence major for a long time.
“As the negotiations are at a crucial stage, it will be difficult to comment on the outcome of the meeting at this moment. We all are waiting for the conclusion of the cost negotiation committee,” said a senior ministry official.
The plan to procure 126 fighter jets, described as the mother of all defence deals, has been hitting one after another air pocket on several fronts for the past several months.
Ministry officials said the cost of the project had risen to over $20 billion from the original $ 12 billion in 2007 when the tender was floated.
After the cost escalation, Dassault has refused to take “full responsibility” for the 108 fighter jets to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. As per the original tender, eighteen of the 126 planes will be purchased directly from Dassault, while HAL will manufacture the rest at an upcoming facility in Bengaluru, under a licence.