French defence minister heads to India over jet deal

September 22, 2016 5:10 pm
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A senior Indian defence ministry official said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar would sign the accord on Friday © AFP/File / Jean-Sebastien Evrard

, Paris, France, Sep 22 – French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian left on Thursday for New Delhi where he is expected to sign a long-delayed deal to sell 36 Dassault fighter jets to India.

Dassault CEO Eric Trappier was part of Le Drian’s delegation, an AFP reporter accompanying the minister on the flight said.

Paris has stopped short of confirming the deal approved Wednesday by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet committee on security, with government spokesman Stephane Le Foll saying France was waiting for “things to be said officially”.

But a senior Indian defence ministry official said that Le Drian and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar would sign the accord on Friday.

The long-delayed deal is the biggest order for the Rafale after Egypt and Qatar each ordered 24 of the jets last year.

Sales of the Rafale jet © AFP

India entered exclusive negotiations four years ago on buying 126 Rafale jets, but the number of planes was drastically scaled back in tortuous negotiations over the cost and assembly of the planes in India.

Details of the agreement — notably the price tag — “will become clear after the signing event”, the Indian official said.

A report by the Press Trust of India estimated the value of the deal at 7.9 billion euros (8.8 billion dollars).

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