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Dassault Aviation CEO visiting India for talks on marine variant of Rafale jets

NEW DELHI (PTI):  Various aspects of India's proposed purchase of 26 naval variant of the Rafale aircraft are likely to be discussed during a two-day visit to New Delhi by Eric Trappier, the chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, the maker of the jet, people familiar with the matter have said.

Trappier arrives in Delhi today to hold negotiations on the procurement, they said.

In July, the defence ministry approved the purchase of the Rafale (marine) jets from France, primarily for deployment on board the indigenously-built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will also pay a four-day visit to Italy and France beginning today to expand bilateral strategic engagements and explore industrial cooperation for joint development of military hardware.

The proposed procurement of the Rafale jets by India is also likely to figure during Singh's talks with his French counterpart, Sebastian Lecornu, in Paris.

It is learnt that Trappier is likely to meet Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane, Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari.

There is no official word on Trappier's visit to India yet.

The defence ministry in July said the procurement of the jets along with associated ancillary equipment, including weapon systems and spares, would be based on an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) and that the price and other terms of the purchase will be negotiated with the French government after taking into account all relevant aspects.

The people cited above said Trappier will arrive in Delhi today on a two-day trip to hold preliminary negotiations on various aspects of the procurement.

However, there is no official announcement on the visit by Dassault Aviation.

The people cited above said Trappier is likely to meet senior military officials.

The procurement is likely to be under the framework of an IGA.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had bought 36 aircraft in the fly-away condition. There is a thinking in the IAF that it should go for at least two more squadrons of the Rafale jets.

The defence and strategic ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.

In July, the two countries announced a raft of ground-breaking defence cooperation projects, including the joint development of jet and helicopter engines and construction of three Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy.

The two strategic partners also expressed commitment to cooperating in the co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including for the benefit of third countries.

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