Will not violate rules of trade in defence deals, says France

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 14:40 hrs

New Delhi: Amid corruption allegations clouding India's chopper deal with Italy's AgustaWestland, France said Thursday that it would do "nothing contrary to the rules of trade" that were based on the principles of competitiveness and fairness.

French President Francois Hollande, while making a case for the Rafale fighter jet as an "excellent" aircraft, said that there will be "nothing contrary to the principles that we stand for... trade must be based on the rules of trade... and on the basis of competitiveness and fairness, which are the essential principles".

Addressing a press conference, Hollande, who is on a two-day visit to India, cited the "excellence" of the Rafale fighter jet, which the "French army is aware of" and added, "there is no other argument".

"We have to judge our policy on the basis of results," he said, adding that he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had discussed the Rafale deal. "We agreed there is progress... its conclusion depends on the commercial negotiations... It is for India to choose."

Hollande said that while he had pointed out the merits of the craft and the trust in the company, he was not here to "replace the head of the company".

India and France are in negotiations for the contract for 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) - manufactured by Dassault Aviation - for the Indian Air Force.

At a press conference with the Indian prime minister earlier, Hollande said the details of the deal were being discussed "and we do hope we can reach an early conclusion".

France has major defence dealings with India. Besides the Rafale jet, negotiations are also on 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.

India and France have been working on the short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) project for the past few years.

Both sides have concluded negotiations on the project, "which, once approved by the government, will be co-developed and co-produced in India", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said earlier in a statement.

A CBI probe has been ordered into the $750 million deal for 12 VVIP AgustaWestland helicopters following the arrest of the helicopter's Italian manufacturer Finmeccanica's chief on charges of graft in the contract.

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