New Delhi: French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will arrive here tomorrow to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in what is seen as a fresh attempt to firm up the faltering multi-billion dollar Rafale deal.
Defence sources said that Drian will be in India as part of an official visit to a few other countries including UAE. He will hold a fresh round of talks with Parrikar just two months after they met and decided to “fast-track” the contract negotiations for the nearly USD 10-billion deal for Rafale fighter jets.
Sources said the French Minister will focus on firming up the deal ahead of an expected visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to France a couple of months from now. Parrikar had recently said that he would not comment on the Rafale deal as the Contract Negotiations Committee was discussing it.
However, he has asked the CNC to fasten the process. The Indian Air Force Chief has stressed on the need to have a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, for which Rafale was shortlisted.
Confident of signing the much delayed contract with India “soon”, French Defence major Dassault had last week said its pricing remains the same from day one and it has not wavered from the request for proposal (RPF).
It had also said an empowered team has already arrived in India and carried forward the talks as decided by the Defence Ministers of the two countries in December.
“The pricing issue is very clear. Our pricing remains the same from day one of LI (Lowest bidder). So there has been no change on that front,” Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier had said.
Asked about claims that Dassault is not willing to stand guarantee for the 108 jets to be made by state-run HAL here, Trappier denied there was any deviation from what the RFP said.
“We are exactly in line with our answer to (Request for Proposal (RFP). This answer led the government of India to select L1 which was Rafale. And we have stuck to the same commitment which is totally in line and compliant with the RFP,” he had told PTI at the Aero India air show in Bengaluru.
Back in January, Indian defence sources had said that contract with France has run into rough weather over a guarantee clause and steep rise in price. “The ball is in France's court,” the sources had said adding that if the “RFP is adhered to, the deal can be wrapped up soon”.
Sources had said that life cycle costs are high. Dassault had this last week signed a USD 5.9 billion deal with? Egypt for 24 Rafale jets.
India had selected Rafale in 2012 but the final contract is yet to be signed. While 18 jets are to be bought off the shelf, 108 are supposed to be manufactured here by HAL.