Negotiations are going on well, says French Defence Minister

According top priority to the Rafale medium multirole combat aircraft deal with India, visiting French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday said the negotiations were “going on well.”

“I will not be announcing the date of signing the contract. I would like you to know that the negotiations are going on well and I have full confidence. There will be a framework Indo-French inter-governmental agreement for this contract, which will provide all the necessary guarantees of the French State,” Mr. Le Drian said.

Mr. Le Drian was delivering a lecture on “Indo-French Defence Partnership: The Choice of Strategic Autonomy' at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) here.

The Rs. 50,000-crore deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets, billed as India’s biggest ever military tender so far, has been under negotiation since January 2012, fuelling apprehension that it might be further delayed, particularly at a time when Lok Sabha elections are less than a year away.

The Minister said the projects of such magnitude take time to materialise but the schedule and the pace of the project were normal. He expressed the hope that India and France would continue to work together on many other projects as well. Asked if France was concerned over the delays in signing the contract, Mr. Le Drian said: “I am not at all concerned over the delays. The point is that you have to abide by the Indian procedures.”

He said that by selecting the Rafale fighter on the merits of its quality and its price, India made the best choice. Mr. Le Drian said Rafale had proved itself in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and elsewhere and would ensure India’s security in the decades to come.

“France guarantees the transfer of technology. The aircraft will be given all the upgrades that technological progress will permit over the course of years. Numerous Indian companies will benefit from the offsets laid down in the contract,” he said.

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