June 30, 2014 / 11:36 AM / in 3 years

France's Fabius confident on India jet fighter talks

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday he was confident about the outcome of talks to sell 126 Rafale fighter jets to India in a multi-billion-dollar deal that has been stalled for months.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj before their meeting in New Delhi June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

“The discussion is developing in (a) very positive way and ... we are very confident about the final outcome,” Fabius told reporters on a visit to New Delhi. He was due to met India’s defense minister later on Monday.

Fabius is the first of a string of politicians from Western nations arriving in New Delhi over the next few weeks. They are drawn in part by the prospect of defense deals, as the new government considers opening the industry to foreign investment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in office for just over a month, has vowed to get India’s economy out of the doldrums by cutting red tape to revive infrastructure projects - including in the defense industry.

The previous government was widely derided for failing to follow through on promises and for letting major projects become bogged down.

India chose Dassault Aviation’s (AVMD.PA) Rafale in 2012 over other international jet manufacturers, but disagreements over cost and work-sharing have slowed talks, while India’s weak economy has stretched government finances.

No final contract has been signed and rivals including Britain still hold out hope the deal will fall through.

“It is certainly true that complex matters take some time, but there is a difference between some time and too long,” Fabius said, talking about deals in general.

“(The) notion of efficiency by the new government is completely shared by us,” he added, ahead of talks with minister Arun Jaitley, who holds both the finance and defense portfolios.

Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Douglas Busvine

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