India, France to discuss MMRCA deal, but no signing yet

New Delhi, July 25 : Negotiations on the USD 10 billion deal for purchase of 126 French Rafale jets for the IAF will be high on the agenda during talks between Defence Minister A.K. Antony and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian here Friday but no contract is due to be signed.

Le Drian, who is visiting India on the invitation of Antony, is arriving on a three-day visit.

French firm Dassault Aviation bagged the deal for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) last year after being declared the lowest bidder, pipping EAD's Eurofighter.

While terming the deal "the most important tender in defence history", a reliable source said Thursday that there was "no target" for the negotiations to be concluded.

No contract for the MMRCA deal would be signed during the minister's visit, the source said, adding that the contract would come "in due course depending on the speed of the negotiations".

No time lines have been stressed, the source said.

The MMRCA deal is "complicated" and the contract has "technicalities and legal issues" including offsets and supply chain to be worked out, the source said, adding that France is "confident" of the deal being concluded.

Eighteen of the 126 planes are to be purchased directly from Dassault, while Hindustan Aeronatics Limited (HAL) is to manufacture the other 108 under a licence at a facility in Bangalore.

It will be Le Drian's second visit to India. He will also visit the Indian Air Force station at Gwalior, to see the French Mirage 2000s being used by the IAF and discuss its upgradation, estimated at Rs.11,000 crore.

He would also interact with pilots, officers and technicians who fly and maintain the fleet.

Le Drian is expected to brief Antony about the French perspective on the global security scenario. Sources said such a briefing has been held by France only for two countries - Britain and the US.

He will present France White Paper on Defence and also give a lecture at the Institute for Defence and Security Analyses (IDSA) Friday on "Indo-French Defence Partnership: the Choice of Strategic Autonomy".

He will also meet industrialists of the defence sector, members of the French community, and exchange views on global threats and current international issues with high-profile Indian researchers and scholars, as well as Members of Parliament.

--IANS (Posted on 25-07-2013)

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