French President Francois Hollande has said that the nearly Rs 60,000 crore Rafale jets deal is on the “right track” but technicalities will take time.
“The Rafale is a major project for India and France. It will pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation, including ‘Make in India’, for the next 40 years.
“Agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time, but we are on the right track”, Hollande told PTI in an interview ahead of his visit beginning on Sunday.
Hollande, who is the chief guest at the Republic Day parade this year, began his three-day India visit on Sunday from Chandigarh where he, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will attend a business summit and visit various landmarks.
He also noted that Indo-French cooperation in defence “is part of our strategic partnership. It is based on trust, a very strong trust between both our countries.”
India and France are in negotiations for 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly away conditions since the announcement for the deal was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April during his visit to France.
However, the deal is yet to be sealed as both sides are still negotiating the price which is estimated to be about Rs 60,000 crore.
HT had reported last week that negotiations between India and France on closing the deal for 36 Rafale multi-role fighters have entered their last, hectic phase. Both the countries are seeking simultaneous inking of the Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) and Commercial Contract during President Hollande’s visit.
But going by Hollande’s interview to PTI, it will have to be seen whether the deal will be signed during Hollande’s visit.
The French president also said that India’s demand for action by Pakistan against the perpetrators of the Pathankot terror attack is justified.
“France strongly condemned the attack on Pathankot. India is fully justified to ask for justice against perpetrators.”
“India and France are confronted with similar threats: we are attacked by murderers who pretend to act on religious basis. Their real objective is widespread hate. They want to undermine our democratic values and our way of life. India and France are united in their determination to act together against terrorism”, the French President said in a written interview to PTI.
Observing that solidarity between France and India was natural, Hollande said, “I would like to thank once again President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Modi for their messages after the Daesh attacks in Paris in November. French people have also been very touched by the numerous gestures of friendship received from all over India.
“We engage constantly with India. The Indo-French working group on counter-terrorism met just after the Paris attacks in November 2015. That was the best answer to show our determination in front of jihadism,” he said.
Hollande, who will be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day parade on Tuesday during his second State visit to India, also appreciated Prime Minister Modi “for his diplomacy reflecting both a sense of proportion and a strong determination. He recently took important steps to engage in a dialogue with the political leadership in Pakistan.”
Accompanied by a high-powered delegation, Hollande landed at Chandigarh Air Force Station at around 1 pm. The French president is accompanied by a high powered delegation, including six ministers.
“I also come to India to strengthen our relationship in several areas: defence, space and civil nuclear energy. As well as education, research, culture. Our cooperation on the fight against climate change and on clean energies has taken on an unprecedented importance,” he said while identifying railways, smart cities, food security, higher education and cinema as areas where the two countries can further cooperate.
A heavy posse of security personnel from Punjab, Haryana, the Union Territory of Chandigarh and para-military ITBP jawans have been deployed in strength at all vital installations in Chandigarh.
Early morning checks were also carried out at the entry and exit points of the city. Proper barricading has been put in place, while posters are also dotting the routes welcoming the two dignitaries.
(With inputs from PTI)