PARIS Jan 10 India is ironing out contract
details on a purchase of French Rafale fighter jets that has
been under negotiation over the past year, India's foreign
minister said during a visit to Paris on Thursday, suggesting
that a deal could be close.
India chose Dassault Aviation's Rafale for a
possible 126-plane order in January 2012 ahead of the competing
Eurofighter Typhoon and started
exclusive talks, lifting hopes in France of a sale that would
restore the lustre of its aviation industry.
Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid - on his first visit to
France where he will meet President Francois Hollande on Friday
- said progress was being made on the deal, worth around $15
billion, but did not say when it could be signed nor what it
"We know a good French wine takes time to mature and so do
good contracts," he told reporters. "Contract details are being
worked out. A decision has already been taken."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said the talks
"were advancing well."
Asked about the status of the deal, a Dassault spokesman
said the company remained positive.
"Relations between India and Dassault are solid and
long-standing, we're confident," the spokesman said.
In December, Dassault Chief Executive Charles Edelstenne
said he was "relatively optimistic" the deal would soon wrap up
despite tough negotiations.
Hollande will visit the United Arab Emirates next week, and
is also courting Brazil, as Paris strives to ink a first sale of
Rafales, billed as some of the most effective fighter jets in
the world but also among the most expensive.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy took personal charge of
trying to market Rafales abroad in 2007 after the embarrassing
failure of a bid to sell $2 billion of the jets to Morocco.
India already owns more than 50 French Mirage jets as it
seeks to upgrade its largely Soviet-era air force and navy.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Writing by Catherine Bremer and
Alexandria Sage; Editing by Sophie Walker)