New Delhi: India's multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet contract with France continues to be stuck in the doldrums even as the two countries have agreed to "fast-track" the negotiations.
But while forward movement is awaited in this regard, defence sources made it clear that the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to France and the fighter jet deal were two separate issues which cannot be linked.
"There are some issues which still persist because of which the final contract is pending for such a long time," defence sources here said when asked if the issues relating to pricing and the guarantee clause had been sorted out.
Talking about chances that the deal would be worked out ahead of Modi's visit to France next month, the sources maintained the two were not linked.
"The Rafale deal is not linked to the official visit of the Prime Minister. These are two separate things. An official visit is not only about signing defence deals," the sources said.
They made it clear that the makers of Rafale -- Dassault Aviation -- will have to stand by the clauses of the Request for Proposal (RFP) to which they had agreed.
Asked if that meant that the ball was in the French court as far as the Rafale deal was concerned, the sources said one could say so.
Meanwhile, talking about the likely options in case the Rafale deal were to fall through, the sources said that Indian defence procurement rules do not permit any lateral entry and a fresh tender was the only solution if the contract does not get signed.
The sources, however, refused to give a timeline for a final decision.
They also insisted that the Rafale deal and the joint development project with Russia for a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) are two different things.
"There is no link between the two. We want to speed up the process on the FGFA front, but that has got nothing to do with the Rafale deal," the sources said.