Tuesday, December 2, 2014

India Promises to 'Fast-Track' $12 Billion Rafale Deal: Sources

The French and Indian defence ministers agreed to press ahead with negotiations on the sale of 126 Rafale fighter jets to India, both sides said on Tuesday, after slow progress cast doubt on the estimated $12 billion or about Rs. 74,400-crore deal.

Under the deal, the first 18 planes will be made in France and shipped to India, while the remaining 108 will be produced by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

France's Dassault Aviation has been trying to clinch the deal to sell India since New Delhi chose the company over other foreign plane manufacturers in 2012. But disagreements over cost and work-sharing have slowed talks, while India's weak economy has stretched government finances.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in the capital on Monday. Mr Parrikar allegedly said the deal "would be resolved in a fast-track manner."

"It was decided that whatever differences still existed would be resolved in a fast-track manner" an Indian defence ministry spokesman told news agency AFP.

French company Dassault Aviation won the right in 2012 to enter exclusive negotiations with India to supply 126 fighters after lodging a lower bid than rival firm Eurofighter.

India, the world's top weapons importer, is in the midst of a $100-billion defence upgrade programme and experts say it urgently needs the jet fighters to maintain a combat edge over nuclear rival Pakistan.