Emmanuel Macron's India visit: Rafale deal expansion to top agenda

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Cooperation in key areas of defence, push for at least 100-150 more Rafale jets will be an important aspect of French President Emmanuel Macron's discussions during his visit to India starting Friday.

Emmanuel Macron

While the earlier deal was struck with the previous French government, the Macron-led government is seeking to expand on it, sources told BusinessLine.

The business paper reported that French Defence Minister Florence Parly had already pushed for a follow-on order on Rafale during her visit to India last October. However, the Modi government was reportedly 'non-committal' on the proposal.

Macron, on a four-day visit, will be accompanied by CEOs of almost all top French defence firms. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold delegation-level talks with the French president on 10 March.

The follow-on order for 100-150 more Rafale jets is likely to be one of the topmost items in Macron's agenda.

Ahead of his visit to India, French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country will not have any objection in disclosing information on the Rafale deal if it resolves the political stalemate between the centre and the opposition. The deal between India and France involves the purchase of 36 Rafale jet fighters.

In an interview with India Today, Macron said that proper attention was given to the economic, industrial and strategic interests in finalising the deal. While he maintained that the deal was not signed during his tenure, he asserted that it was signed keeping in mind the interests of both the countries.

Macron further justified the secrecy clause stating that it was not advisable to give out the details of an extremely sensitive business interest.

Macrons statement comes at a time when the government is facing constant flak from the opposition over the deal, with the Centre refusing to divulge details citing national security.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had recently alleged that massive corruption happened in Rafale deal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally involved in it.

Underlining that PM Narendra Modi had personally inked the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi dubbed the contract with France for the fighter jets a "scam".

He alleged irregularities were the reason behind the Centre's refusal to provide the agreement's details.

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