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Asia-Pacific

Hollande predicts slow progress on Rafale deal on arrival in India

media French President François Hollande arrives in Chandigarh on Sunday AFP

French President François Hollande predicted modest progress in long-drawn-out negotiations for the sale of Rafale fighter jets to India on arrival in Chandigarh on Sunday. Advances on the billion-dollar contract for Dassault Aviation tops the agenda on Hollande's second official Indian trip, as it did on the first one.

"We are going to take another step on the road which we hope will lead us to India's acquisition of the 36 Rafale jets," Hollande told reporters on arrival in the city, designed by Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier. "India needs them and France has shown that it has the world's best aircraft. The commercial contract can only come after the inter-governmental accord ... which will be discussed during my visit."

On a visit to Paris last April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his country would buy 36 Rafales, substantially fewer than Dassault hoped when negotiations opened in 2012.

The contract is believed to be worth about 8.3 billion euros.

The negotiations have dragged out under two successive governments with a key sticking point being Delhi's insistence that at least 30 per cent of the construction be done on Indian soil.

In an interview with the Press Trust of India ahead of his visit Hollande said that sealing the deal would "pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation" for the next four decades but conceded that "agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time".

In a Tweet, Modi said he was "honoured & delighted" to host Hollande and pledged to "build on the ground covered during our previous interactions".

May also interest you: Why is Hollande in India?

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