NEW DELHI – France’s foreign minister thinks the long wait for India’s purchase of 126 fighters may finally be nearing its end.
"The discussion is developing in a very positive way and we are confident of a swift final outcome," says Laurent Fabius, who is visiting India, where he has met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defense and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
According to a defense ministry official, the French foreign minister held detailed discussions on the contract negotiations for the $20 billion-plus Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal, and urged the new government to expedite the process.
For Fabius, the Rafale proposal to the(IAF) is "beyond establishing a buyer-seller relationship," for it will "empower India with advanced technology. India is an independent country [and] wants equipment of the highest quality, [including the] transfer of technology so that it can produce these on Indian soil. The proposal from Rafale meets all these legitimate demands," he says.
Aviation Week had reported that India’s new conservative government is expected to fast track defense deals that have been on the back burner for quite a long time.
"The notion of efficiency in the new government approach is completely shared by us," Fabius says. This contract will be "very important because stemming from this contract we can develop a large partnership in the domain of defense," he adds.
The deal to supply the Rafale fighters, manufactured by France’s, has been in negotiations since January 2012. Dassault will supply 18 MMRCAs in fly-away condition. The remaining 108 aircraft will be manufactured under license by India’s state-owned . Negotiations stalled over details concerning the license-built aircraft. India still hopes to induct the first squadron of these aircraft by 2016. "It is fair that for complex matters it takes some time, but there is a difference between some time and too long," Fabius says.
Fabius hopes the Rafale deal will become a precursor to similar contracts related to missiles, submarines and helicopters. The first French Scorpene-class submarine, which is being constructed at the Mazagon docks in Mumbai, is expected to be ready by 2016.
The French firm MBDA and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization have apparently finalized a deal to co-develop the Maitri surface-to-air missile, which is likely to be inducted into the Indian navy and the IAF.