France to Negotiate Rafale Deal With India

France to Negotiate Rafale Deal With India France to Negotiate Rafale Deal With India

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Drian will meet his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar this week to prevent the collapse of a deal to sell 126 Rafale fighter jets.

Three years ago, French company Dassault Aviation won the right to start exclusive negotiations with India to supply 126 Rafale fighters in a deal which could be worth as much as $12 billion. However, the deal between the two countries has been difficult when it came to the realization of the project, Sputnik reported.

The idea is for Dassault to supply 18 of the twin-engine fighters later this year while the remaining 108 would be made by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd under technology transfer agreements with India.

India previously said the deal was too expensive and looked to back down from the project, instead leaning towards Russian-made Sukhoi-30 MKI that is a better armed, more economical and much cheaper fighter jet.

France's defense ministry has said the visit will give the governments a chance to discuss "international affairs and defense industry issues", but there is little doubt that Rafale will dominate proceedings. The French minister plans to push on with negotiations, hoping to resolve the differences in “a fast-track manner.” But his trip could be too little too late.

Last week, Russian aircraft corporation Irkut announced that Russia and India plan to discuss the modernization of Russian-designed Su-30MKI fighters, including equipping them with BrahMos cruise missiles.

Drian's visit comes barely two months after he also came to India for talks with Parrikar when they both agreed to push on with negotiations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing government, which won power in elections last May, has been blowing hot and cold about the progress of discussions.

If the deal were to collapse, it would be a huge embarrassment for the French government, which is preparing to welcome Modi for his first visit to Europe as premier in April.