India, France to discuss status of Rafale, Jaitapur deals

New Delhi, Feb 12: India and France will discuss the “status” of two big ticket deals under negotiation — the over $10 billion contract for purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets and French reactors for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant — during the visit of French President Francois Hollande.

Hollande, who arrives here Thursday on a two-day visit, his first to India, will hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the same day.

“The status of the deals is likely to be discussed,” an official said Tuesday.

The two sides are negotiating the details of the deal for purchase of 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) – manufactured by Dassault Aviation – for the Indian Air Force.

“There is no timeline or deadline to the negotiations,” said an official, adding “there are quite a few dimensions, minute details to be focused on”.

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

Indian and French officials are also negotiating “absorption of Indian technology.. terms of financing, as well as technology transfer and off sets policy” the official said, adding that the negotiations are “complicated”.

“The negotiations have been on for a while, but are going on in the right direction.. and hope we’ll reach the right target,” he added.

Negotiations for purchase of French reactors for the Jaitapur plant im Maharashtra are also going on “smoothly”, an official added.

The MMRCA deal and for purchase of French reactors are not to be inked during Hollande’s visit.

French nuclear giant Areva and Nuclear Power Corporation of India are discussing the commercial aspect of the deal for purchase of six reactors for the Jaitapur project.

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Areva has been “building more safety measures into the EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) technology”. The two sides are also discussing issues pertaining to costs, the official said.

“We have local expertise, and would like to take benefit of the new technology of Areva and upscale our own technology part,” the official said.

Two teams from France were in India this month, including one on Feb 4, for discussions on the Indian liability law, the official said, adding “We are not at a stage to say that negotiations have concluded.. they are ongoing and we are fully committed” to the project.

Talks between India and France for the manufacture of short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) systems at a cost of $1.5 billion are “proceeding satisfactorily”, the official said.

Hollande arrives at the head of a high-level delegation comprising cabinet ministers, officials and businessmen.

Paris will also be bidding for India’s $2 billion light utility helicopter (LUH) programme. Eurocopter of France is one of the competitive bidders to sell 197 LUHs to India, a diplomatic source had said Monday.

IANS