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Pace of Rafale deal "not enough": Parrikar

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Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar addresses the media after the inauguration of the 9th edition of Defexpo-16 in Goa on Monday. A PTI Photo.

QUEPEM, GOA (PTI): Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday admitted the pace of negotiation with France for 36 Rafale jets was "not enough" but hoped it will be concluded "very soon", nearly a year after a government-to-government deal for the multi-medium role combat aircraft was announced.

The Minister also brushed aside the recent statement of Vice Chief of Air Staff B S Dhanoa, slated to be there next air chief, that the Indian Air Force does not have the numbers to fight a two-front war with China and Pakistan.

"We are definitely very serious about the Rafale deal. And it is definitely moving though I agree that the speed is not enough," Parrikar told a press conference here at the Defexpo.

He said France and India would "very soon" conclude the deal and added "I am not putting a timeline because ultimately money is a problem and we should get a good deal."

In April last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced India would go for a government-to-government deal with France for purchasing the fighter planes. But a final contract in this regard is yet to be signed. The sticking point is the price of the aircraft.

It is said the 36 aircraft, along with missile systems and support, will cost around Rs 65,000 crore but India is looking at buying them for about Rs 59,000 crore.

Asked about Dhanoa's comment, Parrikar said India is "quite well prepared". "Preparedness is not necessarily decided on strength. It also depends on many other capacities, beyond fighter aircraft also," he said.

Talking about the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Minister said there is a "difference in perception of the border".

On his Ministry's annual report that said China's assertiveness along the LAC has increased, he said, "Assertiveness is existing but I don't think we are saying that we are not assertive. We are also assertive.

"Our assertiveness has increased but we feel that solutions could be found by mechanism which the two countries work out."

He also said that confidence building measures like setting up of hotlines and new border meeting points were "providing results".

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