The deal for the purchase of 36 French-built Rafale warplanes by India is unlikely to be sealed during Francois Hollande’s visit, with the French President saying “agreeing on technicalities” would take time.
The invitation for Hollande to be chief guest at the Republic Day parade had raised expectations that the long-delayed Rs 60,000-crore agreement for the fighter planes would finally be reached.
The French leader who arrived in Chandigarh on Sunday for a three-day India visit, however, said the deal was on the right track but further discussions were needed on the inter-governmental agreement.
“We are going to take another step on the road which we hope will lead us to India’s acquisition of the 36 Rafale jets,” Hollande told media.
“The commercial contract can only come after the inter-governmental accord... which will be discussed during my visit,” Hollande said.
While Hollande said he was “optimistic” about the accord being agreed on Monday, a senior French official acknowledged negotiations were still snagged on the price.
Hollande told the news agency PTI that the deal was “on the right track ” but “agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time”.
During a visit to Paris in April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India would directly buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from the French government but negotiations have dragged on due to disagreements over price. Another sticking point has been the offset clause that requires arms makers to invest a percentage of the value of any major deal in India.
The two leaders stepped into the long-drawn negotiations after a much-larger agreement first signed with France’s Dassault Aviation in 2012 broke down.
India desperately needs to upgrade its aging Soviet-era fleet plagued by engine troubles and poor availability. The Indian Air Force requires at least 44 fighter squadrons -- with 18 planes each -- to counter the combined threat from Pakistan and China.
(With inputes from agencies)