New Delhi: As India and France signed 16 MoUs on the first day of French President Francois Hollande's three-day India visit, all eyes are now set on pending Rafale deal between the two countries.
The governments of both India and France are struggling to nail down a deal for New Delhi to buy 36 Rafale fighters jets made by the French company Dassault, which is in itself a watered-down version of a plan first unveiled in 2012.
Hollande`s presence as chief guest at Tuesday`s Republic Day military parade is intended to symbolise the close relationship between the two countries, particularly in the aftermath of November`s Paris attacks.
It had also raised fresh expectations that the Rafale deal would be put to bed once and for all after years of tortuous negotiations, reported news agency AFP.
However, the agency quoted a senior French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, as telling reporters that the two sides were still haggling over the price, which experts say could reach around EUR five billion (USD 5.6 billion).
On his arrival in India, Hollande said he was "optimistic" that an inter-governmental accord that would pave the way for a final contract would be agreed on Monday but also warned that pinning down the fine details of such a deal "obviously takes time".
Modi announced alongside Hollande in Paris last year that India had agreed to buy the 36 jets as it looks to modernise its Soviet-era military and keep up with neighbouring Pakistan and China.
But the two leaders` intervention has so far failed to prove decisive, with sticking points still remaining such as Delhi`s insistence that arms makers invest a percentage of the value of any major deal in India.
(With AFP inputs)