France Monday pushed for a larger defence partnership with India as its Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Monday touched base with the new Indian government and voiced confidence that the $20 billion deal for the purchase of 126 Rafale combat jets would be inked soon.
Fabius, who held talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and later Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, said he was “very confident” of the Rafale deal being sealed.
He said the status of negotiations on the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal to acquire 126 of the French fighter jets “were very positive” and he was “very confident of the final outcome”.
The French minister said France shares the “notion of efficiency” of the new Narendra Modi government, which he said would help both sides in rapidly implementing the decisions taken.
“(The) notion of efficiency by the new government is completely shared by us,” he said at a press conference after talks with Sushma Swaraj.
Fabius, the first European minister to reach out to the new Indian government, said France was also keen on a larger defence partnership with India, encompassing the areas of missiles, submarines and helicopters.
Fabius, who will be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday, said he would be extending an invite from President Francois Hollande to the Indian prime minister to visit France.
The prime minister’s official visit to France could be in September, when Modi visits New York for the UN General Assembly, Fabius said.
Fabius said France has “high ambition of the partnership” from the new Indian government.
He said he also discussed the situation in violence-hit Iraq with Sushma Swaraj.
India had announced its choice of Rafale in January 2012, but negotiations had subsequently stalled over the offsets clause, the transfer of technology and the role of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), which will be manufacturing the jets.
Under the MMRCA project, the first 18 jets are to come in “fly-away condition” from manufacturer Dassault while HAL will manufacture 108 fighters in India over six years.
Fabius said France had “no particular concerns” about the Indian civil nuclear liability law.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said at a press briefing that India and France had reiterated their commitment to proceed with the Jaitapur nuclear power plant project in Maharashtra.
He said France was keen to push trade with India to take it beyond the present $18 billion and also push bilateral investment.
“Trust and partnership” he said were two words signifying the bilateral relations between India and France.
To push tourism between the two countries, from Jan 3, 2015, France will be putting in place a new visa issuing procedure that will ensure visa in less than two days.
“This is an important step to strengthen tourism and exchanges between people,” said Fabius, who also looks after the tourism and trade portfolio.
He said his visit has come at a time when India’s PSLV rocket launched a French satellite into space from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C23) was carrying the 714-kg French Earth Observation Satellite ‘SPOT-7’ as the main payload besides satellites from Germany, Singapore and Canada.
Fabius said France, which is to host the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015, has pinned its hopes on Modi’s commitment to fight climate change.
He said France will be providing one billion euros for sustainable infrastructure and urban development to India.