French minister Jean Baptiste Lemoyne said on Monday that the first Rafale fighter jet will land in India in September, following which 35 jets will be delivered one by one, PTI reported.
“The French government doesn’t care about controversies and we’ve a road map, we just want to deliver,” Lemoyne said on the criticism surrounding the fighter jet deal. “It’s in the interest of the two countries. Rafale is a tool for better sovereignty for India.”
Lemoyne, who is the minister of state for Europe and foreign affairs of France, made the remarks on the sidelines of a programme with Indian alumni of French institutions in New Delhi. Lemoyne’s trip is the first French ministerial visit to India after Narendra Modi took charge of the government for a second term.
The French minister said an investigation is under way into an attempted break-in at the Indian Air Force’s office in Paris which is overseeing the procurement of the 36 fighter jets. “Indian authorities would be updated when new details would be provided to us,” Lemoyne told ANI. Unidentified persons broke into the office last month in a possible espionage attempt to steal data related to the aircraft.
The Supreme Court is hearing petitions seeking review of the court’s December 14 verdict that ruled out a CBI investigation into the Rafale fighter jet deal. In February, a report in The Hindu had alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office had conducted “parallel negotiations” with France in 2015 about the deal. Last month, French newspaper Le Monde reported that France had waived €144 million tax dues of Anil Ambani’s firm while the Rafale talks were under way.
Lemoyne also welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal for a global conference to address the threat of terrorism.
“Every single initiative to fight terrorism is welcome because it is a threat to every country in the world...” Lemoyne said. “So, everything that can be done to unite efforts is welcome. It’s [terrorism] a global challenge like climate change. We will be closely looking at this initiative...Fight against terrorism is at the heart of our priorities... France stands alongside India on this... and I can say that we have strong relations on this front.”
Lemoyne said his visit to India was to prepare for Modi’s participation at the G7 summit in France in August.