Suspense over the multi-billion dollar Indo-French defence deal on Rafale fighter planes continues with French Ambassador to India Francois Richier saying that “complex negotiation” is going on and the deal is yet to be “finalised”. The envoy spoke about the deal just two days ahead of French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India. Hollande will be chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26.
“The discussions are taking place at present. So I cannot say what will be the outcome of this. They are not finalised. Indeed it is a complex negotiation,” Richier told the press in New Delhi.
The envoy added, “Of course I will share with you that I am hopeful. But hopeful does not mean we have certitude. Work is being conducted with a lot of energy.”
An inter-government framework agreement is expected to be signed during the Hollande’s visit but a final contract will take time as the cost negotiations are still on.
Defence sources said the main problem relates to the cost issue. It is expected that the final contract for the 36 aircraft, including its missile system and others, will cost around Rs 60,000 crore. Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria is heading the price negotiations from the Indian side.
Replying to a query on possible order for more Scorpene submarines besides the six already under construction, the French envoy said, “Let us focus on Rafale for now”.
Meanwhile, asked about the co-development project of a short range surface-to-air missile (SR-SAM) by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with MBDA of France, the Ambassador said, “We are working on it”.
“Of course, we expect a decision on this by the Indian side. May be not now but in the future,” he said.
Further, talking about the scheduled visit of his President Francois Hollande starting Sunday, he said terror, climate change and smart cities will be the highlights of the meetings between the top leaders of the two counties.
“Highlight will be terrorism in view of the situation we are in at present, state of emergency, military operations in Syria, Iraq and in Africa,” Richier said adding that both France and India want to defend common interests and values.
“This is an occasion not only to remind everybody but to pull certain number of steps in this direction of combating terrorism and this will be high on the agenda,” he said talking to reporters at his residence.
(With inputs from the PTI)