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French Prez coming in Feb; Rafale, N-deals top agenda
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, January 20
India and France are discussing some big-ticket deals to make the maiden visit of French President Francois Hollande to India next month a truly memorable one.
Top officials of the two countries are busy holding diplomatic talks to explore the possibility of signing agreements for French Rafale fighter jets for India and French nuclear giant Areva building two nuclear power reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

On the anvil

There is a possibility of signing agreements for purchase of French Rafale fighter jets and building of two nuclear power reactors at Jaitapur by French nuclear giant Areva

Also on the table will be the progress in implementation of the civil nuclear deal signed between the two countries

India has compiled a list of priority countries and France is at the forefront among European nations

 Indian officials say itís a visit that New Delhi has been keenly looking forward to. India has compiled a list of priority countries for it and France is at the forefront in Europe.

India chose Dassault Aviationís Rafale for a possible 126-plane order in January 2012 ahead of the competing Euro-fighter Typhoon and started exclusive talks. Dassault chief executive Charles Edelstenne was recently quoted in the media as saying that he was ďrelatively optimisticĒ that the deal would soon wrap up despite tough negotiations. Indications are that India could buy up to 189 of the Rafale fighter jets currently being used by France to bomb Islamist militants in Mali.

The possibility of an additional 63 jets being added to an expected order for 126 was raised during External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshidís recent visit to Paris to do the groundwork of the French Presidentís much-awaited visit to India. The deal is estimated to be worth about $12 billion. A 50 per cent increase in the number of planes ordered would take it to around $18 billion.

Also on the table when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Hollande will be the progress in the implementation of the civil nuclear deal signed between the two countries in October 2008. France was the first country to enter into a nuclear pact with India shortly after it secured a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliersí Group (NSG) for undertaking nuclear commerce.

However, like other nuclear partners of India, France too is not happy with Indiaís civil nuclear law, particularly the liability clause. However, it has been made clear to France and other countries by India that there is no question of any change in the law though New Delhi is ready to consider increasing the cost of reactors.

During the French leaderís visit, the two countries may sign a commercial pact with French nuclear power giant Areva for building two nuclear power reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. India has held a series of techno-commercial negotiations with Areva and there seems to be reasonable hope of convergence.

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