French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian Tuesday held talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar, for the second time in under three months, to break the logjam over a $25 billion deal to sell 126 Rafale fighter planes to India.
India had selected Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighters over Eurofighter Typhoons in January 2012 after the French firm emerged the lowest bidder.
A senior defence ministry official said the fighter deal was among several issues discussed ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris in April. France is hopeful of positive outcomes ahead of the visit.
Issues relating to the licenced-production of the fighters by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited need to be resolved before the deal can be sealed. France will supply 18 planes in flyaway condition, with the remaining to be built in India under licence. Dassault is reluctant to guarantee the planes that will be built here.
At the Aero India-2015 in Bengaluru last week, Parrikar had said he would not comment on the deal until he received a report from the government’s contract negotiating committee. Air force chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said India had no Plan B if negotiations with Dassault Aviation to buy Rafale fighter jets collapsed and that the air force needed to induct medium multi-role combat aircrafts (MMRCA) soon to make up for the drawdown in its fighter fleet.