* Purchase being reviewed by cost committee-India Def Min
* No deal expected during Hollande visit next week
* India selected Dassault combat jet last January
BANGALORE, Feb 6 India pledged on Wednesday not to let defence
cuts disrupt efforts to finalize a potential $10 billion purchase of French
warplanes, but both sides played down expectations of a landmark deal in time
for a visit by French President Francois Hollande next week.
India picked the Rafale combat jet, made by Dassault Aviation,
for exclusive negotiations over a year ago after a hotly contested bidding war
with rival manufacturers, but is still to finalize the 126-aircraft deal.
"The Rafale purchase is being reviewed by a cost negotiation committee,"
Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters.
"There are six to seven layers of procedure after that. We cannot cut short
the procedure," Antony said at an air show in the southern city of Bangalore.
"There is no question of delay because of the budget cuts."
In Paris, officials said the complex negotiations were going smoothly but
ruled out a signature during a visit to India by Hollande on Feb. 14-15.
"Things are moving quite quickly. We hope the contract can be concluded as
soon as possible but it won't be during the visit," said a French diplomatic
source who declined to be named.
"India never signs military contracts during political visits, but above
all, the contract is not ready yet."
India, the world's biggest arms importer in recent years, plans to spend
around $100 billion over the next 10 years in upgrading its mostly Soviet-era
military hardware to keep pace with China's ramping up of defence spending.
Despite the modernization push, India's defence budget will not escape a
tightening of government spending this year, Antony said, as New Delhi looks to
rein in its fiscal deficit.