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France will pitch Rafale deal to Modi today

France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius will push for the $ 20-billion Rafale deal, which is stuck for over two years now, in a meeting on Tuesday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The deal to buy 126 Dassault Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force is one of the biggest defence contracts in the world. It ran aground over costs in a sluggish economy. French aviation major Dassault won the tender in 2012, beating Eurofighter’s Typhoon and Swedish Saab’s Gripen-D light fighter.

“(The talks) are developing in a positive way and we are confident of a final outcome… Will discuss this with the PM when we meet tomorrow,” Fabius said here on Monday. He added it was crucial to work out the “main elements” of the contract as these would have implications for the next 30 years.

“Large contracts in this domain can be developed in future. There had been a competition and Rafale had been selected. But some details have to be worked out, which is normal,” Fabius added.

Last month, Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Eric Trappier had said the company was hopeful of closing the deal by the end of this year.

Fabius, on a two-day visit to India, today met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jailtey, where this issue was extensively discussed.

He also discussed the situation in Iraq and is open to helping India in evacuating people from the conflict-hit country.

The French minister expressed concern over bilateral trade figures. He said he had asked the new government to restart talks for the stalled India-EU Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement.

India and France also discussed the civil nuclear cooperation deal and Fabius said he had “no concerns” with India’s nuclear liability law. French company Areva is involved in building six third-generation pressurised water reactors under the civil nuclear deal signed by the two countries in 2010. However, the project is caught up in protests by locals.

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