French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler said on Friday that the first Rafale aircraft will be delivered within two months and it will be “perfectly on time”, PTI reported.
“The first Rafale will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in two months from now, I think in September, perfectly on time,” Ziegler said on the sidelines of a function in Bhopal. “Thirty-six will come within the next two years.”
Ziegler hailed the relationship between India and France. “Look at the track record we have developed in cooperation with India in the past 50 years,” he said. “The IAF has been flying with French technology, and Indo-French technology, because there is a large amount of technology that we have co-developed.” He added that the partnership will continue for another 50 years.
The envoy refused to be drawn into the controversy over the aircraft in India. “I am not interested in controversy,” he said. “I am interested in results, and in the facts, and the facts are that the first Rafale is coming in within the next two months, and I am proud of that.”
Ziegler said the Indo-France relationship is a “strategic partnership”. “This partnership is developing on the economic front, more and more French investment is coming to India, more and more private partnership is being set up between our companies,” Ziegler said.
“When I came to India three years ago, we had only 3,000 Indian students joining our universities every year,” the envoy said. Ziegler added that the number has gone up to 10,000 now.
Ziegler was in Bhopal to preside over the closing ceremony of an Indo-French project on “Distribution Network Performance Enhancement Solutions” carried out by French company EDF International Networks and the state-owned Madhya Pradesh Power Management Company Limited.
The Rafale jet deal between India and France has been criticised by the Opposition. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of treason and alleged that he had acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani in the deal. Gandhi had used the phrase “chowkidar chor hai [the watchman is a thief]” during the Lok Sabha election campaign to accuse Modi of corruption.
Ambani has won an offset contract from Dasault Aviation, the manufacturer, for the deal, despite no previous experience in making aircraft. However, the government has denied any favouritism in the deal.
In June, the Supreme Court heard review petitions against its verdict declining a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the deal. The Centre told the court that there was no question of the registration of a first information report or a CBI investigation.