PARIS — French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is due to visit Malaysia on Sunday, with talks expected to cover the Rafale fighter jet and Mistral helicopter carrier, website La Tribune reported.

"During a visit of the defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to Kuala Lumpur, where he will land this Sunday, the Malaysian air force could privately tell the minister a preference for the Rafale in the tender for 18 aircraft," the website reported on Aug. 25. (eds – correct).

France has made good progress on negotiations on the Rafale with Malaysia, particularly on the industrial offset, the report said. Le Drian is to go on to India after the Malaysia visit.

The French defense minister is due in India on Tuesday, an Indian Defence Ministry official said.

La Tribune reported the French minister "could attend the signing of the contract for 36 Rafales," although some observers are highly cautious in view of the slowness of the Indian process.

India has said it wants to buy the 36 fighters off the shelf and on a government-to-government basis. Dassault Aviation, the Rafale prime contractor, hopes to sign a contract by the end of the year.

The French minister is also expected to discuss with Malaysia a sale of the two Mistral warships that which Paris has bought back from Russia, the website reported. Malaysia is building six warships based on the DCNS Gowind corvette, sails two Scorpenes, and the French shipbuilder is keen to sell two more of the attack submarine to Kuala Lumpur.

India is also interested in the Mistral, La Tribune reported. As New Delhi is close to Moscow, that political link could help France sell the Mistral to India, unless Russia decided to hinder a deal, the report said.

The defense ministry was unavailable for comment. Dassault Aviation, prime contractor of the Rafale, and DCNS, the Mistral prime contractor, declined comment.

Vivek Raghuvanshi contributed from New Delhi.

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