A high-level team from France arrived in New Delhi to give a final touch to the government-to-government framework agreement for 36 Rafale fighter jet planes, that is likely to be signed later his month.
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is set to visit India ahead of the Republic Day. However, dates have not been finalised yet.
Defence sources said the agreement, which will pave the way for a final contract, is likely to be signed ahead of French President François Hollande’s visit. Hollande will be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations this year.
“A high-level French government team is in town to finalise the agreement and also discuss future scope of military cooperation,” the sources said.
If all goes well, the final contract for 36 Rafales is expected to be inked soon, which will come as a major relief for the Indian Air Force which has been eyeing the aircraft for over a decade.
Though the government-to-government framework agreement was scheduled to be signed last year itself, it ran into rough weather over the issues of off-set, tweaking of weapon technology, among others.
The sources said discussions were held at the “highest level” on both sides to get over the roadblocks.
India’s insistence on 50% off-set clause, tweaking of weaponry technology and plans to set up two bases for Rafale fighter aircraft were some of the issues which had cropped up during the recent talks that began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to acquire 36 Rafales during his trip to France in April. They will be bought in fly-away condition.
The announcement had come as a boost for the modernisation plan of IAF as the original deal for 126 Rafale planes through a tendering process was stuck for years. India has constituted a committee headed by Air Marshal SBP Sinha to hold negotiations with France.