New Delhi, 26 July
Even as doubts continued over the signing of the contract for the biggest defence purchase of the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), the Rafaele from French company Dassault costing over Rs 50,000 crore, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian today said “the negotiations are going on well”. He said he was confident it would be through a “framework Indo-French intergovernmental agreement for this contract which will provide all the necessary guarantees of the French State”.
Taking questions after his lecture on “Indo-French Partnership:the Choice of Strategic Autonomy,” at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses after he held discussions with defence minister A K Antony, Mr Le Drian said India by selecting the Rafaele on “the merits of its quality and its price has made the best choice”. He added, “She will not regret it. It is a splendid omnirole aircraft, which has proved itself in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and elsewhere. It will ensure India&’s security in the decades to come.”
Though he did not announce the date of signing of the contract for the aircraft, Mr Le Drian said, “France guarantees the transfer of technology. The aircraft will be given all the upgrades that technological progress will permit over the course of years.”
He said numerous Indian companies will benefit from the offsets laid down in the contract and that “beyond aircraft, an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation between the two countries is commencing”.
With the Indian government, specially Mr Antony, concerned over the corrupt practices involved in some defence deals, the French minister said, “French defence companies respect French law on the prohibition of corruption. This seems obvious, but, I think it&’s better to recall this because all countries do not have the same obligation.”
He said besides the MMRCA, the two countries have also embarked on the SRSAM, a short-range missile system that was being developed between DRDO and French company MBDA. “Both countries will thus shortly marshal their energies and talents to build a new missile,” he added.
During his 90-minute meeting with Mr Antony, the French leader discussed not only the MMRCA deal but also the security situation in the Af-Pak region where France withdrew its forces handing over charge to Afghans.
He said with the “transition and the new mission of Nato in 2014, a new phase will start when the Afghans will have to be in charge of their security”.
Mr Le Drian briefed his Indian counterpart on the French white paper on defence and national security released in April last year, officials said. They said such a briefing had earlier been held by France only for two countries ~ the United Kingdom and the USA.