France is courting India in hopes of concluding some big-ticket military contracts that failed to materialise during the previous government’s term.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius met defence minister Arun Jaitley on Monday, amid renewed efforts by Paris to sell military equipment worth more than $35 billion to the Indian armed forces.
Defence contracts for modern fighter jets, short-range surface-to-air missiles (SRSAM) and mid-air refuellers have been in final stages of negotiation, but New Delhi has not signed on the dotted line yet.
In January 2012, India had picked French firm Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighter jet over Eurofighter Typhoon in a hotly-contested $18 billion contract to equip the Indian Air Force with 126 advanced combat aircraft. The previous UPA government said in February it had no money to sign the deal. France is hoping for a breakthrough under the new NDA regime.
Likewise, France has made no headway in concluding a $2 billion contract to equip the IAF with six Airbus 330 MRTT mid-air refuellers. Airbus Group International president Jean-Pierre Talamoni, who is visiting India this week, has sought a meeting with Jaitley to brief the minister on the major programmes being pursued by the group.
The air force has been operating the four-engine Russian IL-78 tankers for nearly 10 years, but it has now opted for the two-engine A330 MRTT, offered by European defence firm EADS.
The IAF had short-listed the European tanker in 2009, but the deal fell through after the finance ministry raised objections over the price. But the A330 MRTT again won the new tender floated in 2010, emerging as the cheaper option taking into account the life-cycle costs.