India has assured France that all issues in the multi-billion dollar deal for the 126 Rafale combat aircraft would be ‘resolved in a fast-track manner’ as the two sides agreed to overcome the differences over the long -delayed project.
The issue came up for discussion during the delegation- level talks last evening between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
India had in 2012 selected the Rafale jet for a deal estimated to be worth over Rs 60,000 crore, but the negotiations are still continuing between the Defence Ministry and French firm Dassault Aviation.
“The talks were held in a cordial atmosphere. All issues related to India-French defence cooperation were discussed,” official sources said.
The sources confirmed that the Rafale deal came up during the discussions and that both sides agreed there were matters on which differences still exist between the two.
However, Parrikar told his French counterpart that these ‘would be resolved in a fast-track manner’. Both sides also agreed to take forward the partnership which they had envisaged in 1998.
The deal with India is a big one for the Rafale fighter as it will be the first mega export order for the aircraft.
The final negotiations for the multi-billion dollar deal have been stuck on a number of issues ranging from pricing to work-sharing.
As per the Request for Proposal (RFP) issued in 2007, the first 18 jets are to be imported and the rest manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
According to sources, Dassault was reluctant to stand guarantee for the 108 fighters to be built by HAL as far as liquidity damages and timelines for production was concerned.
This, the sources say, is the critical issue that is delaying the inking of the deal.
The Defence Ministry is of the view that the guarantee clause was part of the Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQR) under the RFP.
Dassault had agreed to the ASQR and hence was selected for the deal, sources maintained.
“How can the ASQR be relaxed? This is not allowed under the Defence Procurement Procedure, 2013,” sources said.