France and India will clear a long-awaited $9 billion deal for 36 French-built Rafale warplanes to India, French President François Hollande said Sunday, according to Indian media. The French leader was speaking in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh as part of a three-day state visit.
However, playing down the chances of a swift negotiation, Hollande told the Press Trust of India that, “Agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time, but we are on the right track.”
"We are going to take another step on the road which we hope will lead us to India's acquisition of the 36 Rafale jets," Hollande said, adding: "India needs them and France has shown that it has the world's best aircraft. The commercial contract can only come after the inter-governmental accord ... which will be discussed during my visit."
Negotiations for the Rafale aircraft have dragged out under two successive governments with a key sticking point being New Delhi's insistence that at least 30 per cent of the construction be done on Indian soil.
Hollande, who is the chief guest at the Republic Day parade this year said the eventual deal would "pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation" for the next four decades. The French president also said India’s demand for action by Pakistan against the perpetrators of the Pathankot terror attack is justified.
“France strongly condemned the attack on Pathankot. India is fully justified to ask for justice against perpetrators,” Hollande reportedly said.
According to the Hindustan Times, a national daily, negotiations between India and France have entered their last hectic phase. Both countries are reportedly seeking a governmental and commercial accord during Hollande’s visit.