Top defence officials   negotiate Rafale deal

Talks with French govt could be wrapped up within a month

New Delhi: Top Indian and French defence officials on Tuesday held a fresh round of talks to negotiate the cost of 36 Rafale fighter jets which India is buying from France.

The talks are likely to be wrapped up in another one month.

“The talks have been very hectic. There are a lot of fine prints that both sides look into. The talks will most likely take one more month,” a defence source told PTI. A team from Paris, led by Engineer-General Stephane Reb, director of the International Directorate of the DGA (General Directorate for Armament) of the French Defence Ministry had arrived on Monday night. The Indian side was led by Deputy Chief of Air Staff SBP Sinha. “Today was the first day of talks. We hope to warp it up very soon,” the source said. The French side is here thrice every month to carry forward the talks. The Defence Acquisition Council had on September 1 given the go ahead for further negotiations for purchase of 36 jets that had got stalled due to differences over a variety of issues.India’s insistence on 50 per cent off-set clause, tweaking of weaponry technology and plans to set up two bases were among the sticking points that had cropped up during the talks that began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to acquire the fighter jets during his trip to France in April. If things proceed smoothly, a govt-to-govt agreement between India and France could be signed soon, paving the way for the final contract for the purchase of the aircraft. Modi’s decision to buy the jets, citing operational requirements of the IAF, had given a boost to the modernisation plans of the air force as the original deal for 126 Rafale jets through a tendering process had got stuck for years.

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