London: The multi-billion dollar contract between the Indian Air Force and the Dassault Aviation of France for the supply of 126 Rafale fighters will be concluded in the next three to four months, India`s Ambassador to France has said.
"The Rafale deal is in the final stages and hopefully it should be concluded in the next 3 to 4 months," Ambassador Rakesh Sood told members of the Indian Journalists Association at the India House here yesterday.
Describing the negotiation as hugely complex exercise, Sood said it was after a long time the Indian Air Force has gone out for Rafale fighters which would phase out the ageing MIG-21 fleet of the Soviet era.
"Along with that a pretty stringent clause have been put for transfer of technology, the offset (clause), and Dassault Aviation has accepted them," he said.
The negotiation has moved slower than expected. However, "we are looking at 3 to 4 more months to conclude the agreement," he said.
Dassault is negotiating with the Contract Negotiation Committee.
The 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) are set to phase out the ageing MIG-21 fleet of the Soviet era and enhance the air force`s strike power.
The cost price of the Rafale fighters has not been spelt out officially, the deal is estimated to be worth USD 20 billion, due to inordinate delays in the bidding and selection process.
Of the 126 fighters, Dassault is expected to deliver 18 in fly-away condition and licence the state-run defence organisation Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to build the remaining 108 aircraft at its Bangalore complex.
Rafale emerged as the lowest of the two bidders that were short listed, Typhoon of the European consortium EADS Cassidian being the other contender.
Answering questions, Ambassador Sood said the French President Francois Hollande would visit India early next year.
He said the new External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will shortly visit Paris.
In terms of trade, he said the bilateral trade between India and France was about USD 8 billion, which was below expectation.
Noting that the French had a long interest in Indian civilisation, he said "recently a lady had produced a 9-volume Ramayana in French." He said Indian music, yoga and films are quite popular in France.