Rafale fighter (File photo)
French and Indian defence officials are to hold fresh talks on the
purchase of 36 Rafale jets, with hopes drawn-out negotiations on the
multi-billion-dollar deal are close to concluding, an official said.
The talks are going ahead in New Delhi after the French side agreed
to an Indian government demand for future investment in the country
as part of the deal, the Economic Times said.
A government official told AFP he was confident the talks in New
Delhi would "take the deal to the final stage" but declined to
comment on any agreement on investment.
"If all goes well, a government-to-government agreement will be
signed soon. It will most likely take a month before the final pact
is signed," the official said.
During a visit to France in April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra
Modi announced that New Delhi had ordered 36 of the "ready to fly"
planes, worth an estimated 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion).
But a sticking point has been Delhi's standard requirement that arms
makers invest a percentage of the value of any major deal in India,
known as the offset clause.
The Economic Times, quoting unnamed sources, on Tuesday said the
French have agreed in principle to a 50 percent offset clause.
Stephane Reb, the French defence ministry's senior military
procurement officer, will head the negotiating team, the daily said.
The deal is a long way short of plans in 2012 under the previous
Indian government to buy 126 Rafale jets from French manufacturer
Dassault Aviation as part of a $12-billion deal.
After coming to power last May, the Modi government dashed lingering
hopes over that deal, saying the country would only buy 36 because
they were "way too expensive".
India is in the middle of a major upgrade of its ageing military
hardware, a modernisation programme worth about $100 billion, partly
to keep up with rival neighbours Pakistan and China.
Modi also wants to end India's status as the world's number one
defence importer and to have 70 percent of hardware manufactured
domestically by the turn of the decade.