New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may reach a breakthrough on a long-delayed deal to buy Rafale fighter jets from France in talks with the French president on Friday.
Government has been in negotiations since 2012 to buy 126 Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, but the estimated $12 billion dollar deal has hit roadblocks over cost and assembly of the planes.
Media reports said ahead of talks between Modi and French President Francois Hollande on Friday that the government was considering a direct purchase of a smaller number of jets to accelerate the acquisition and replace its ageing stock.
An English daily said the government was “seriously considering a strategic purchase of up to 40 Rafales for the Indian Air Force” due to “operational necessity”, with further purchases later.
It quoted an unnamed source as saying a new deal could be worked out this year, with the exact number of planes depending on the final price.
Defence analyst Nitin Gokhale reported on his blog, Newswarrior that the government had decided ahead of Modi’s first official visit to France to buy 60 jets.
He quoted unnamed sources as saying Modi would discuss the deal with Hollande on Friday.
Another English daily quoted foreign ministry spokesman as saying “movement” on a deal was likely during Modi’s visit to France this week.
“The issues you referred to will also be discussed. We expect movement on these issues,” Syed Akbaruddin said in response to a question on the deal.
Until now the government has been negotiating directly with Dassault, whose boss Eric Trappier recently insisted the deal was “95 percent finalised”.
Hollande has said he and Modi “will have discussions” about the Rafale deal while stressing he did not want the issue to define their relationship.
Both the Indian defence ministry and Dassault declined to comment.