India, France discuss Rafale deal, Af-Pak situation

The over Rs 50,000 crore deal for supplying 126 Rafale combat aircraft and the security situation in the Af-Pak region are understood to have been discussed during the Defence Minister-level talks between India and France here today.

During the around 90-minute meeting between Defence Minister A K Antony and his visiting French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, the two sides are believed to have flagged the ongoing military hardware cooperation including the Rafale combat aircraft deal.

The two sides are understood to have also taken up the security situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region after the withdrawal of the American forces from there in 2014.

During the one-on-one meeting with Antony, Le Drian briefed the Indian side on the French white paper on defence and national security released April last year, officials said.

They said such a briefing had earlier been held by France only for two countries - the United Kingdom and the US. No contract will be signed by the two sides during this visit of the French Defence Minister, who had come to India with the French President in February this year.

The Rs 30,000-crore Maitri surface-to-air missile defence system is also understood to have been discussed at the meeting between the two sides.

The 126 medium-multirole combat aircraft deal is the biggest focus of the two sides at the moment. India has been treading cautiously on the contract, which would be the biggest-ever defence deal for the country in case it is signed.

Both sides are keen to conclude the negotiations for the project at the earliest but the possibility of signing it by the end of this year looks bleak against the backdrop of a weak rupee and the complexity of the contract.

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