A Dassault Rafale fighter jet
Representational imageReuters

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is in the country for a two-day visit, met with Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj as well as Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday, and is said to have pushed for the multi-billion-dollar Rafale jet deal.

India had worked out a deal with France's Dassault Aviation firm to purchase 126 Rafale fighter jets in 2012 but the process slowed down in the last two years, owing to several differences on the total costs. The total cost of the deal is estimated to be more than ₹ 60,000 crore.

However, with the Modi government expected to increase foreign direct investment in the defence sector, nations such as France, United States and Britain are looking to strike rich military deals with India.

The French minister, the first to arrive among the Western nations but a little after the Russian deputy prime minister's visit, seemed confident about the jet deal.

"The discussion is developing in a very positive way and ... we are very confident in the final outcome," Fabius told the media, as reported by Reuters. "The notion of efficiency - which is very important if I understand correctly, in the new government approach - is completely shared by us," he added.

Fabius said he would bring up the discussion during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday as well. "We shall see with the new government how to implement rapidly those decisions that are already taken and I will discuss that...with the Prime Minister as well," he told reporters at a press conference on Monday.

However, a defence ministry official indicated that the deal may not be signed as soon. "I don't think the deal will be signed very soon. There are many intractable issues to be resolved," he told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

Fabius is also said to have discussed civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries, during his meeting with Swaraj.

"Civil nuclear cooperation is a pillar of our bilateral strategic partnership and this was discussed. Both sides reiterated their commitment to proceeding with the Jaitapur nuke plant," an official from the ministry of External Affairs told the Press Trust of India.

Fabius is also reported to have said that France did not have any "particular problems" about India's nuclear liability law.

The French Foreign Minister is slated to invite Modi to France on behalf of French president Francois Hollande.

"I will convey to Prime Minister Modi an invitation on behalf of President Hollande for an official visit as early as possible, possibly in September, when the Prime Minister visits New York for the UN General Assembly or on his way back," the French minister told the media, reported PTI.

Update -

The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, and discussed issues of trade and investment, and even defence. The minister had said on Monday that he was positive about the Rafale jet deal working out with India. 

Fabius told PTI that he had "positive" talks with Modi on the areas of urban planning, tourism and low-cost defence manufacturing. 

"The next step is for the French firm Dassault and for the Indian government to discuss the details which have not yet been discussed and hopefully reach a conclusion.... For us the early the better...," Fabius told reporters following his meet with Modi. The meeting was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval as well as Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh among others.

France had also proposed a One-billion Euro credit line to fund sustainable projects in India for the next three years.