French Defence Minister to Discuss Rafale Deal With Manohar Parrikar Tomorrow

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  French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi tomorrow to "launch negotiations" for the 36 Rafale fighter jets that India has decided to buy from France.

Mr Drian will arrive in the national capital later tonight after his visit to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The French Minister will meet Mr Parrikar tomorrow during which he will "pursue" discussions on matters that were taken up during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France last month, a French Embassy statement said.

This includes negotiations for the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft.

"The aim is to launch negotiations pursuant to the Indo-French Joint Statement of April 10," it said.

Mr Drian's follows the 14th edition of the "Varuna" exercise between Indian and French Navies, conducted from April 28 to May 2, off India's western coast with the carrier battle groups of the two countries.

A "powerful symbol" of the strategic partnership between France and India, this exercise enabled the navies of both countries to deepen their mutual knowledge and strengthen their close ties of friendship, the statement said.

"It is also a concrete illustration of the importance that France and India, both regional powers of the Indian Ocean Region, attach to maritime security," it added.

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