Even as France remained confident over a deal to supply 126 Rafale fighter jets to India, its foreign minister Laurent Fabius expressed concern over a prolonged delay of an Indo-French joint venture to develop short-range, surface-to-air missile (SR-SAM) project.
Fabius is on a two-day visit to New Delhi, and on Monday met defence minister Arun Jaitely and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.
In 2007, India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and France's MBDA began talks on a Rs 30,000 crore project named 'Maitri' to jointly development and produce the short-range, surface-to-air missile. After six years of negotiations, in February 2013, a MoU to co-develop these SR-SAM was signed by French president Francois Hollande.
The venture aims to fill the capability gap of air defence with the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy; the Navy and the Air Force are estimated to require at least 100 Maitri systems each. Sources say that the signing of SR-SAM project will demonstrate the NDA government's priority for 'make India' programmes.
"The French delegation headed by their foreign minister raised concern over the delay of critical SR-SAM deal, which has been in limbo for years. France is considering SR-SAM deal as a booster to have greater partnership between the two nations," a senior official privy to discussions said on condition of anonymity.