India to talk to British officials in $10bn Eurofighter deal


London : The Indian government wants to talk to British rather than German negotiators in discussions on a possible $10 billion deal for the purchase of Eurofighter Tyhoons, a newspaper reported Friday.

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The Times said the Indian government wanted officials from British Aerospace (BAE) Systems and the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) to take over the negotiations from the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and the German government.

The Indian Air Force is reported to be considering the Eurofighter as part of a programme to replace 126 Soviet-made jets.

The multi role combat aircraft, which is competing with the US-built F-16, F-18 and the Russian MIG-29 for the IAF order, is manufactured by a consortium of BAE systems (Britain), EADS (Germany and Spain) and Alenia FinMeccanica (Italy).

The Indian government is set to announce a shortlist of candidate aircraft next month and if Eurofighter makes the cut, BAE and the MoD will be asked to step in to continue the talks, replacing the Germans.

Normally, the three companies take turns to negotiate export orders and, at present, EADS Germany is dealing with the Indian government.

The newspaper said if BAE takes over the Eurofighter talks it would confirm India as an important new market for the company.

Mike Turner, the chief executive of BAE, said he expected India to be added to the company’s existing six “home” markets of Britain, the United States, Sweden, Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

“We are determined to go forward in India and eventually we see it becoming another of our home markets,” Turner added.

The move toward India comes amid reported concern over defence cuts in Britain.

Turner said BAE’s domestic market would see defence projects being delayed as the government imposed budget cuts.