Britain held out hope that the European consortium could bag the multibillion Indian deal for 126 fighter jets with its Eurofighter Typhoon in case the Narendra Modi government’s negotiations for the French Rafale jets falls through.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, in answer to a question, said the his country “respects the position the Indian government has adopted” on selection of the French Rafale for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Air-craft (MMRCA) project.
But he added that “should the negotiations not progress with the French then we are ready again to engage with the new government on the basis of the latest offer that the Germans communicated to Mr (Arun) Jaitley two months ago”.
The German-led European Consortium – comprising Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain – was the runner-up in the race for selling 126 fighter jets to India and has reportedly offered a new cheaper proposal for its Eurofighter Typhoon to the new government.
India selected the French Rafale fighter jets two years ago to replace its ageing MiG-21s. But the negotiations for a deal have not concluded yet.
State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has been negotiating with France’s Dassault, which makes the Rafale, to finalise agreements to produce the jets in India.
Fallon also said his country is willing to help in Modi’s mission of “First Develop in India” policy, especially in the defence sector where “we are ideally placed to contribute significantly”.
He also pushed for boosting economic engagement between the two countries.
Fallon also lauded the contribution of Indian soldiers during World War I and pushed for greater partnership between Britain and India.
Speaking at the Vivekananda International Foundation on ‘The UK and India – Together in an Uncertain World’, he said: “We want to see the friendship grow from strength to strength. A century ago our two countries stood together to help make the world a better place, that partnership is just as strong today and there has never been a better time to work together.”
He said both countries have lately “discovered a spring in our steps”.
“Our two countries are ready to fight for our values and security of our countries and safety of our people just as we did in 1914,” the British minister said.
He is here to participate in a function to commemorate India’s contribution to World War I and to meet senior ministers of the Narendra Modi government.
Fallon, while expressing hope that India under the Narendra Modi government would make Britain “natural partners”, said that his country “believes that India is a force for good in the world” and by being the world’s largest democracy, it “helps make the world a better place”.
He said Britain supports India’s bid for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council and added that the “more India is active on the world stage it is better for the whole world”.
He said he had met Defence Minister Arun Jaitley in the morning to push for greater cooperation in the defence sector where Britain has high end technologies on offer.