India, France discuss pending fighter jet deals

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2011 5:59 AM
India, France discuss pending fighter jet deals

France's defense minister made a final pitch for his country's fighter jet on a visit to India on Friday, hoping to secure a lucrative contract with the world's biggest arms importer.

India says it's nearing a decision on which fighter jets it will buy, having eliminated all options but France's Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is built by a consortium of Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet discussed the $11 billion deal to supply 126 jets to India's air force and several other multibillion-dollar military contracts with the Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony during a two-day visit to New Delhi.

France has stiff competition: India is being wooed by major arms manufacturing countries as it replaces its obsolete Soviet-era weapons and aircraft. New Delhi is expected to spend $80 billion between 2012 and 2022 to upgrade its military.

Longuet told reporters that buying French military equipment was attractive because it is accompanied by technology transfers.The French government gives buyers of military hardware the commitment that equipment and spares will always be available and that it will provide upgrades as technology evolves, he said.

French companies are also negotiating another $2.5 billion dollar deal to upgrade 50 Mirage-2000 fighter jets in the Indian air force.

Defense ties between India and France have drawn closer in the past few years. The air force and navies of the two countries have conducted joint exercises, while army units were scheduled to hold drills soon, Longuet said.

France views India as a stabilizing force in a volatile region and fully supports India's bid for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, Longuet said.