Despite the multi-billion dollar deal to purchase new generation fighter aircraft from France being more than a year behind schedule and amidst worries that the allocated defence budget may prove to be inadequate,Paris has put up a brave front,saying that it is not concerned about any delays in the project.
The deal to procure 126 fighters to bolster the falling squadron strength of the Indian Air Force has not yet moved close to signing despite the Rafale being chosen as the winner last year. While several procedural issues still need to be sorted out,visiting French Defence Minister,Jean-Yves Le Drian,has said that the project is moving at a normal and positive pace.
I am not at all concerned over the delays. The point is that you have to abide by the Indian procedures. everything has to be checked and explored so that there is no choke or trouble two years down the line that leads to the failure of the project, said Jean-Yves Le Drian,who met Defence Minister A K Anthony,at a function at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.
He added that a framework Indo-French Intergovernmental Agreement would be inked for the contract,which will provide all the necessary guarantees of the French State.
As per the Indian defence procurement procedure,the contract for the deal should have been signed within six months of the Rafale being chosen. The mega deal might get more difficult to sign later this year or early next year since the tenure of the government is ending. However,Le Drian said that bilateral defence ties have remained constant even after political upheaval in both nations.
Le Drian slammed Pakistan in his speech,saying it WAS unfortunate that terror groups continue to operate from its soil. He reminded India about the role the French Mirage 2000 fighters played in the Kargil war. They are currently being upgraded to bring them to the best current standards. I remember that these aircraft played a major role in the Indian victory during the Kargil war in 1999. Today is,in fact,the anniversary of this war, he said.