French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the first top-level dignitary from France to meet the new Indian government, on Monday pushed for early purchase of the multi-billion dollar Rafale combat aircraft during his meetings with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.
Batting for the fighter aircraft, Fabius said France hopes that with the new government, which was keen on efficiency, then implementation of the decision will be swift and expressed confidence of a “positive outcome” to the ongoing negotiations in the deal.
Asserting that there was a difference in “some time” and “too long”, Fabius said that Rafale meets all the requirements of India, including cutting-edge technology and highest quality.
“It is true some elements and several of them have taken a long time. It is fair that for complex matters it takes some time, but there is a difference between some time and too long. And we have some examples there…
“We should see with the new government, which is particularly keen upon efficiency and the implementation of administrative decisions which are taken… We shall see with the new government how to implement rapidly those decisions that are already taken and I will discuss that… with the Prime Minister as well,” he told reporters.
However, he said the deal was “developing positively” and France was confident of a swift final outcome.
He added that it was not only important to say yes for a deal but also when it will happen and what will be the terms.
India had selected the French Rafale combat aircraft, in a deal estimated to be over Rs 60,000 crore, two years ago but the negotiations are still continuing between Indian Defence Ministry and the French firm Dassault Aviation as there have been issues over pricing and work-sharing.
Fabius, who is in India on a four day visit, held “fruitful” consultations with Swaraj on key bilateral, regional and international issues including space, civil nuclear energy cooperation, defence, anti-terrorism as well as the situation in Iraq.
On the key issue of civil nuclear cooperation, the spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said, “Civil nuclear cooperation is a pillar of our bilateral strategic partnership and this was discussed. Both sides reiterated their commitment to proceeding with the Jaitapur nuke plant.”
The minister also agreed that it was best for the experts to deal with the techno-commercial aspects of the major project which both India and France are committed to as a long-term project between the two countries, the spokesperson said.
On his part, Fabius said France has no “particular problems” concerning India’s nuclear liability law when asked if French companies had concerns over the country’s domestic nuclear law.
The visit also comes on a day when India launched a French satellite using its PSLV-C23 rocket.