Rafale, Jaitapur deals not on table during Hollande’s visit
New Delhi: Enhancing cooperation in the key areas of defence, nuclear energy, counter-terrorism and trade will be focus of French President Francois Hollande's first visit here but USD 10-billion deal for Rafale fighter aircraft will not be inked during his two-day stay starting Thursday. Hollande, who will be on a state visit to India, his first stop in Asia after becoming President, will be accompanied by his companion Valerie Trierweiler and a high-level delegation comprising his cabinet colleagues and 45-strong business leaders.
The French President will hold wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on international, regional and bilateral issues such as situation in Mali where French forces are fighting terrorists. "With upgradation of the relationship to strategic partnership in 1998, the relationship has become multifaceted and symbiotic in areas such as defence, civil nuclear energy, space and counter terrorism. There have been regular high- level exchanges at the Head of State/Head of Government levels," Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Referring to Hollande's visit, French Ambassador Fracois Richier said "there would be no signing of contract for supply of Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft" during it. He was speaking at a panel discussion on India-France relations here today. However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris that the talks with India to finalise the purchase of warplanes were "looking up".
Dassault Aviation's Rafale aircraft was shortlisted by India early last year as it choice for procuring 126 Medium-Multirole Combat Aircraft. The French fighter had edged out five other aircraft including American F-16 and F-18 to bag the USD 10-billion contract. Diplomatic sources also ruled out inking of a contract for nuclear reactors at Jaitapur.