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India Seeks to Settle French Plane Deal Ahead of Modi Visit

FILE - View of the assembly line of the Rafale fighter jet in the factory of French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation in Merignac near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Jan. 10, 2014.

India has asked France's Dassault Aviation SA to stick to the original price tag for fighter jets or risk losing one of the world's biggest military aircraft deals, The Times of India reported on Tuesday.

Talks on the proposed purchase of 126 Rafale planes have been ongoing for more than three years to resolve differences over pricing as well as local assembly. The deal is back in focus as Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits France this week.

The deal was initially worth $12 billion but is now widely estimated to have jumped to $20 billion, primarily because of the implications of building some of the jets in India.

The Times quoted an unidentified Indian official as saying Dassault wanted to raise the price to cover the increased cost of local production, and that any such escalation could be a deal-breaker.

A Defense Ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the report.

Dassault declined comment.

Plane pricing

Chief Executive Eric Trappier told India's PTI agency in February that the pricing had remained the same from day one.

Under terms of the contract, 18 of the planes will be sold ready-to-fly while the rest will be assembled at an Indian state-run facility as part of a government effort to build a domestic military-industrial base.

The price of the jets was set to increase substantially because the French firm had calculated a rise in hours required to make the jets at the factory of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. in Bengaluru, the newspaper said.

“Dassault should relent, become fully compliant to the request for proposal and stand 100 percent by its original offer. It can live with a slightly lesser profit margin,” the official was quoted as saying.

The two sides have also wrangled over the issue of guarantees for local production of the aircraft which the newspaper said they were trying to work out. It said, under a new proposal, Dassault will not be liable for penalties if Hindustan Aeronautics failed to deliver the planes on time.

India conducted a global tender in 2007 for the planes after a domestic program to build combat aircraft made slow progress. The Rafale was chosen in 2012 over rival offers from the United States, Europe and Russia.

Modi is traveling to France, Germany and Canada this week.