NEW DELHI: Britain’s foreign secretary lobbied India yesterday to buy Eurofighter military aircraft, suggesting that London has not yet abandoned hope of ousting France’s Rafale from a multi-billion-dollar combat jet order.
William Hague was in New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who swept to power in a landslide general election victory in May on pledges to boost jobs, upgrade infrastructure and reinforce India’s armed forces that are saddled with outdated equipment, much of it of Soviet origin.
“We have always had a strong belief in the capabilities of the Eurofighter and its potential,” Hague told reporters at a joint briefing with British finance minister George Osborne.
“It’s always available to those countries that are able and willing to purchase it,” he said.
London hopes that a stalled deal for India to buy 126 Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation may yet collapse, perhaps opening the door to a new deal involving the Eurofighter Typhoon that is partly built in Britain.
Hague made it clear that Britain would not seek to pre-empt the talks on buying the French jets after Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visited New Delhi last week. “We respect the process that is followed in India,” he said at the end of a two-day visit.
Earlier, the Indian hosts confirmed that the question of replacing India’s crash-prone fleet of Russian-built MiG-21 jets had come up in intergovernmental talks.
“The UK foreign secretary did indicate the technological advantages of the product that they have available,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters in response to a question.
Hague and Osborne visited the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s assasination yesterday morning and announced that a statue of the civil rights leader would be erected in front of the British Houses of Parliament.
Hague denied there was a contradiction between seeking to sell weapons to India and celebrating its best known pacifist.
“We’re dealing with the Indian government, we’re not imposing anything on anybody. Of course friendly countries that wish to buy things from the United Kindom, they are able in compliance with our laws and regulations to buy those things,” he said. REUTERS