Rafale, Jaitapur deals won't be inked during Hollande's visit

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 11, 2013 13:50 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) The over $10 billion contract for buying 126 French Rafale fighter aircraft 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 visit to India Thursday.

Negotiations for the purchase of 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) - manufactured by Dassault Aviation - for the Indian Air Force are "going on smoothly" but are not expected to be completed during Hollande's visit, a diplomatic source said here Monday.

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

However, Paris will be bidding for India's $2 billion light utility helicopter (LUH) programme. Eurocopter of France is one of the competitive bidders to sell 197 LUHs to India, the source said.

Talks will also be held 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.

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, who was elected president last year, will come with his companion Valerie Trierweiler, a journalist.

Trierweiler's programme is not yet known, the source said, adding that her time in India will focus on "social issues".

Hollande arrives in New Delhi Feb 14 morning. He will be given a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will call on him after which he is to hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj will also call on the French president.

Hollande will deliver a lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Feb 15, where he will honour Nobel laureate Amartya Sen with the Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour.

He will then visit Mumbai to participate in a business conference.

More from Sify: