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Parrikar to travel to Singapore; hold talks on Rafale jets

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is traveling to Singapore on Thursday to take part in the crucial Shangri-La Dialogue, an inter-governmental security forum, on the sidelines of which he will also hold talks with his French counterpart, with both countries looking at closing the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets soon.

It is expected that Parrikar will strongly put forward India's viewpoint on Asia's complex security challenges, how to manage military competition in the region and make defence policy in uncertain times.

The Shangri-La Dialogue hosted annually by independent think-tank International Institute for Strategic Studies, is being held from June 3-5.

It is attended by defence ministers and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific countries besides those of other countries.

One of the critical meetings Parrikar will have there is with French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian.

The issues pertaining to Rafale jets deal such as consensus on actions to be taken in case of a material breach, stringent liability clause and guarantee by the French side are likely to be discussed when the two leaders meet.

Parrikar had last week said the government is looking at concluding the much-hyped Rafale deal next month, more than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the purchase of 36 fighter jets during his visit to France.

The deal was announced by Modi in April last year when he had said that the jets would be purchased in a government-to-government contract.

Soon after the announcement, the Defence Ministry scrapped a separate process that was on to purchase 126 Rafale fighter jets built by French defence giant Dassault Aviation.

It is expected that the deal would work out be about Euro 7.8 billion including the missiles and other support system.

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