New Delhi: French Ambassador Francois Richier on Friday said he could not comment on the outcome of the ongoing talks on the Rafale fighter plane deal with India, and added it was a “complex negotiation”.
“Discussions are taking place at present. I cannot say what the outcome will be. It is a complex negotiation indeed. I don’t know what is going to happen,” Richier told the media here on the issue of the multi-billion dollar warplane deal that was finalised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris in April last year.
“Of course, I am hopeful. But hopeful does not mean we have certitude. Work is being conducted with a lot of energy,” the French ambassador to India said.
His comment comes two days ahead of French President Francois Hollande’s official visit to India. Hollande will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in Delhi on January 26.
Asked if an inter-governmental agreement is expected to be signed during Hollande’s visit on the deal, he said: “In any case, there will be an inter-governmental agreement because it is a government-to-government negotiation. Everything will be within this IGA and its annexure. I can confirm this because this is no surprise.”
Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria is heading the price negotiations for the Indian side. The final contract for the 36 aircraft, including its missile system and others, for which an agreement was arrived at during Modi’s visit, is expected to cost around Rs.60,000 crore.
The ambassador said: “There is no commercial contract in the Rafale deal. It is an issue between the French and the Indian government. There is no private contract involved in this deal.”
Countering the contention that the French defence deal was expensive, Richier said: “I don’t agree… otherwise, there will not be any business. If you look at it with a bit of precision, you’ll discover it is not very expensive. In most cases, in India, there is a lot of competition. We may win, we may lose. If we win, it is (given) that we are not expensive.”
Asked about the short-range surface-to-air missile (SR-SAM) project between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and MBDA of France, he said, “We are working on it. Of course, we expect a decision on this by the Indian side. May be not now, but in the future,” he said.