Dassault 'Rafale', Jaitapur nuclear deals unlikely on Francois Hollande's India visit

Written by HumaSiddiqui | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 14 2013, 20:59pm hrs
The much awaited $10.4 billion deal for the 126 French 'Rafale' MMRCA and a contract for French reactors for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra are not expected to be inked during French President Francois Hollande's first visit to India Thursday.

Negotiations for the purchase of 126 Dassault Aviation's Rafale for the Indian Air Force are 'going on smoothly' but are not expected to be completed during Hollande's visit, a diplomatic source said. The negotiations are advancing in five sub-committees, which are looking at all aspects including price and technology transfer. A battle for Rafale 50 % offsets support between HAL, BEL and Reliance is in the open.

Hollande arrives at the head of a high-level delegation comprising cabinet ministers, officials and 60 businessmen.

Paris based, Eurocopter, a unit of aerospace and defence company EADS (EAD.PA), is competing for India's $ 2 bn contract to sell 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters.

India and France will also hold discussions on taking forward the Maitri project -- the Indo-French collaboration for manufacture of short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) systems at a cost of $1.5 billion -- which has been stalled for a while.

Negotiations are still going on between French nuclear giant Areva and Nuclear Power Corporation of India for the setting up of six reactors at Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Maharashtra.

Massive protests have been held against the proposed 9,900 MW Jaitapur project.

"The negotiations are going on smoothly. We are taking time to address safety concerns. The new generation pressurised reactors have safety features in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis (in Japan). We have built it for ourselves, and they are safe," said the diplomatic source.

Talks are also going on about the civil nuclear liability issue.

The two countries also have robust cooperation in counter-terrorism, in space technology and scientific programmes, the source said.

Both sides are expected to ink deals between research organisations of their two countries.

Hollande's India visit is being viewed as a significant milestone in bilateral relationship. Besides defence and nuclear energy, the other key issues which will be discussed include urban development, education, research and development, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy.

The visiting leader on Feburary 14 will hold delegation level talks with Prime minister Manmohan Singh, while External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will pay a call on him. On Feburary 15, apart from delivering a lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum, he will then visit Mumbai where he will participate in a business conference, a statement from MEA said