A French 'empowered' delegation is likely to visit India this month to carry forward the much- delayed talks for the multi-billion dollar contract for 126 Rafale fighter aircraft as India looks at the option of buying more Sukhoi-30 MKI warplanes in case the deal falls through.
Recalling his discussions with his French counterpart last month, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said talks are on over the deal. He said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had intended to send an "empowered person" for this. Sources said a French delegation could visit India this month.
Talking about the delays in sealing the contract, Defence Ministry sources admitted there were problems and said India could consider buying more Russian-made Sukhoi-30 planes if the proposed deal with France collapsed.
France, on the other hand, is confident of signing the contract and says differences can be sorted out. India and France had agreed to fast-track the negotiations in December.
The issue came up for discussion during the delegation- level talks on December 3 between Parrikar and his French counterpart.
India had in 2012 selected Rafale combat planes but the final negotiations are still continuing between the Defence Ministry and Dassault Aviation, maker of the aircraft.
The deal with India is a big one for the Rafale company as it will be the first mega export order for the aircraft. As per the Request for Proposal (RFP), the first 18 jets planes are to be imported and the rest manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.