French authorities confirm they are continuing to negotiate a deal to sell 126 Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets to India but have not specified when the contract will be finalised.
The £9.75bn deal that has been discussed since January 2012 is set to become one of the world’s largest defence import orders.
After defeating all of its competitors, Dassault Aviation has agreed to deliver 18 ready-made jets and manufacture the rest in India’s Hindustan Aeronautics facilities. The ability of Hindustan Aeronautics – which was appointed the lead partner for Dassault Aviation – to support such project has been questioned by the French side, leading to delays in the negotiations.
"Of course, the project is the priority. At the risk of disappointing you, I will not be announcing the date of signing the contract. I would like you to know that the negotiations are going on well and I have full confidence," said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian during a three-day visit to India this week.
India, currently the world’s biggest importer of military equipment is buying 80 per cent of its defence equipment from overseas. The country has recently started pushing for greater involvement of local companies.
However, the global military technology leaders have been sceptical about the capability of India’s industry to compete in such an advanced field, naming the lack of trained staff as one of the main drawbacks.
After meeting his Indian counterpart on Friday, Le Drian expressed his support for the involvement of Indian industry. "Numerous Indian companies will benefit from the offset laid down in the contract and I know for a fact that they have been actively preparing for this," he said.
Dassault Aviation was insisting on two separate deals – one covering the delivery of the ready-made planes and the second involving those manufactured in India. India, however, has opposed this proposal.
Following the meeting of the defence ministers today, a joint statement has been issued, saying that "they agreed that such cooperation should continue to be progressed to the mutual benefit of both countries, including in high technology areas involving joint research and development and transfer of technology."