Hollande visit: $10 bn Rafale deal details being worked out

New Delhi, Feb 4: Financial details of the over $10 billion deal for the purchase of 126 French Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force are being worked out ahead of the visit by French President Francois Hollande to India next week.

“The financial details of the deal are being worked out,” an external affairs ministry official told IANS.

“There are a lot of technical aspects of the deal, which are being worked out by the defence ministry,” the official added, declining to say whether it would be inked on Feb 14, the day of official engagements of the French president in India.

French firm Dassault Aviation bagged the deal last year to provide the new generation fighter aircraft for the IAF after being declared the lowest bidder, pipping EAD’s Eurofighter.

Eighteen of the 126 planes are to be purchased directly from Dassault, while Hindustan Aeronatics Limited (HAL) is to manufacture the other 108 under a licence at a facility in Bangalore.

Hollande is expected to come to India for a two-day visit, beginning Feb 13, but Feb 14 is his day of official engagements in India.

Both countries inked a civil nuclear deal in 2010, according to which two French reactors worth $10 billion are to be built at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

However, there have been sustained protests by locals against the project.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during his visit to Paris last month assured France of India’s commitment to the 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project.

French state-controlled nuclear group Areva and India’s Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd. are in commercial discussions for the import of reactors for the Jaitapur plant.

Hollande, who was elected president last year, is to visit India along with his companion Valerie Trierweiler, a journalist.

She will be accorded the protocol of a First Lady, the official added.

The external affairs ministry official clarified that the Indian government has “never questioned” over who the visiting foreign dignitary wishes to bring along. During the visit of former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008, the government was to accord the rights of first lady to his then companion Carla Bruni, who decided against coming at the time, the official added.

Sarkozy and Bruni came to India during the 2010 visit as man and wife.

“The government of India has never questioned who the dignitary is accompanied by… could be his wife, daughter, or even the number of wives…,” the official said.

IANS