NEW DELHI (AFP) - France's defence minister and his Indian counterpart pledged on Wednesday to quickly wrap up negotiations over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, agreeing to set up teams to nail down the deal.
The meeting between Jean-Yves Le Drian and Manohar Parrikar came some four weeks after the announcement of an outline purchase agreement which fell a long way short of previous proposals for India to buy 126 of the jets made by French firm Dassault.
"The two defence ministers discussed modalities in order to reach an early conclusion of an Inter-Governmental Agreement on the subject," according to a joint statement issued after the talks in New Delhi.
"The two sides decided to set up teams to work out the details in a time-bound manner." During a visit to France last month, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that New Delhi had ordered 36 of the "ready to fly" planes.
The deal - estimated to be worth five billion euros (S$7.4 billion) - followed tortuous years-long negotiations on buying the jets.
Talks began in 2012 about the possible purchase of 126 of the planes as part of a US$12-billion (S$16 billion) deal. But they became bogged down over cost and New Delhi's insistence that 108 of the planes be manufactured in India.
After news of the deal for 36 planes was announced, Parrikar played down expectations of a larger deal.
India has in recent years launched a vast defence modernisation programme worth some US$100 billion, partly to keep up with rival neighbours Pakistan and China.
But contracts for new military hardware have been bogged down in India's bureaucracy, while some were mired in corruption scandals under the previous Congress-led government.