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- French cite reputation for efficacy to push jet deal
Laurent Fabius in Delhi on Monday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, June 30: The Narendra Modi government today discovered how a reputation for administrative efficiency can attract uncomfortable demands for speed in decisions officials would rather let simmer.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius cited the new Indian government’s emphasis on efficiency to press for quick finalisation of a Rs 100,000-crore deal for 126 fighter planes with French company Dassault Aviation that the UPA government initiated in 2012 but never inked.

Differences over technical specifications and costs have put the deal effectively on hold.

“We should see with the new government, which is particularly keen upon efficiency and the implementation of administrative decisions which are taken,” Fabius told reporters after meeting foreign minister Sushma Swaraj.

“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.”

Fabius described the talks with Sushma and later with defence minister Arun Jaitley on the Rafale planes as “positive”. He meets Modi tomorrow.

French officials privately concede that Paris remains jittery over the future of the proposed jet sale.

Britain is leading a counter-offer from the Eurofighter, developed by a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies. UK foreign secretary William Hague and chancellor George Osborne are expected to visit in July.

Neither Sushma nor Jaitley committed India to buying the Rafale jets, telling Fabius they would defer to the opinions of technical and economic experts, officials said.

Sushma did, though, commit to pursuing the nuclear agreement India had inked with France in 2009, which includes setting up a 9,000MW nuclear park at Jaitapur, Maharashtra.

India is also expected to accept an invite from French President Francois Hollande to Modi to visit France soon, official said.

“It is fair that for complex matters it takes some time,” Fabius said. “But there is a difference between some time and too long.”