NEW DELHI — France’s defense minister has told his Indian counterpart that Paris wants to see an early signing of the $11 billion contract to supply India with 126 Dassault Rafales, and that delays could add uncertainty to the program, spilling over into early 2014 elections, according to a diplomat in the French Embassy.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met with his counterpart, A.K. Antony, this week and said that early signing of the Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program is important for the future of Dassault and also for defense ties between the two nations.
India bestowed preferred bidder status upon the French fighter jet last year.
Le Drian also discussed with Antony the fate of the long pending co-development of the $6 billion Maitri short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) project. India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and MBDA of France propose to develop the SRSAM.
The Maitri missile system will have a range of 10 kilometers and will be capable of moving with mechanized forces. The system would be able to engage aircraft, helicopters, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and all types of airborne targets.
Without naming the Maitri system, the official release of the Indian Defence Ministry said, “The ministers had detailed discussions regarding current and future co-operation in the areas of defense equipment and technology collaboration. They agreed that such cooperation should continue to be progressed to the mutual benefit of both countries, including in high technology areas involving joint research and development and transfer of technology.”
No Indian MoD official would give details of the list of joint development projects discussed between the two defense ministers, but sources said the Maitri missile project was on the top of the agenda.