French President Francois Hollande has indicated that the nearly Rs 60,000 crore Rafale jet deal is unlikely to be signed during his current visit although it is on the "right track".
"The Rafale is a major project for India and France. It will pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation, including 'Make in India', for the next 40 years," he said.
"Agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time, but we are on the right track," Hollande told PTI in an interview ahead of his visit beginning on Sunday.
He also noted that Indo-French cooperation in defence "is part of our strategic partnership. It is based on trust, a very strong trust between both our countries."
India and France are in negotiations for 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away conditions since the announcement for the deal was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April during his visit to France.
However, the deal is yet to be sealed as both sides are still negotiating the price, which is estimated to be about Rs 60,000 crore.
A high-level team from France is here and carrying out last minute negotiations.
Answering a question on Pathankot terror strike and that most of the terror attacks in India emanate from Pakistan, Hollande said, "France strongly condemned the attack on Pathankot. India is fully justified to ask for justice against perpetrators."
"India and France are confronted with similar threats: we are attacked by murderers who pretend to act on religious basis. Their real objective is widespread hate. They want to undermine our democratic values and our way of life. India and France are united in their determination to act together against terrorism," the French President said in a written interview.
Observing that solidarity between France and India was natural, Hollande said, "I would like to thank once again President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Modi for their messages after the Daesh attacks in Paris in November. French people have also been very touched by the numerous gestures of friendship received from all over India."
"We engage constantly with India. The Indo-French working group on counter-terrorism met just after the Paris attacks in November 2015. That was the best answer to show our determination in front of jihadism," he said.
Hollande, who will be the Chief Guest at India's Republic Day parade on Tuesday during his second State visit to India, also appreciated Prime Minister Modi "for his diplomacy reflecting both a sense of proportion and a strong determination. He recently took important steps to engage in a dialogue with the political leadership in Pakistan."
Accompanied by a high-level delegation, the French President and Modi will hold extensive talks here tomorrow during which ways to strengthen cooperation in counter-terror, security, civil nuclear energy and trade will figure prominently.
"I also come to India to strengthen our relationship in several areas: defence, space and civil nuclear energy. As well as education, research, culture. Our cooperation on the fight against climate change and on clean energies has taken on an unprecedented importance," he said while identifying railways, smart cities, food security, higher education and cinema as areas where the two countries can further cooperate.
Feature image source: Reuters