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India, France want speedy conclusion of Rafale deal

Despite the controversy raging over the acquisition of helicopters from Agusta Westland, the government on Thursday went ahead and reiterated its commitment for early acquisition of aircraft for the Indian Air Force. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Francois Hollande inked four agreements on Thursday assuring speedy conclusion of the over $10-billion deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets. The agreement also included their commitment to the early implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project.

Hollande, who arrived in New Delhi on Thursday heading a high-level delegation, which includes six ministers and a 50-member trade delegation, said France and India, which became strategic partners in 1998, are taking their relationship to ‘yet another stage’.

Hollande said while France and India do not share the same kind of people or economy, they both ‘share the same values and principles.’ On defence ties, Hollande said France and India have been cooperating for many years. ‘India trusts France for its equipment and France trusts India for its use... India is a land of peace.’ On negotiations for the contract for 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) - manufactured by Dassault Aviation - for the IAF, Hollande said the details were being discussed.

He said their defence cooperation was also about submarines, missiles and lots of equipment. ‘France and India want to build on their civil nuclear energy cooperation,’ he said, adding both countries also want to take forward ties in space, education and culture.

Both sides also concluded negotiations on the short-range surface-to-air missile, ‘which, once approved, will be co-developed and co-produced in India’.
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