Cameron Keeps Eurofighter Hopes Alive Ahead of India Trip

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said he won’t give up on hopes of selling India Eurofighter Typhoon jets when he visits the country next week.

India said last year it would start negotiations to buy 126 Dassault Aviation SA Rafale fighter jets, after it shortlisted that plane and the Typhoon. A Rafale contract wasn’t signed during French President Francois Hollande’s Feb. 14-15 state visit to India.

“We respect the fact that the Indians have chosen their preferred bidder and are currently negotiating with the French,” Cameron’s office said in an e-mail. “Of course, we will continue to promote Eurofighter as a great fast jet, not just in India but around the world.”

Cameron leads a delegation of business leaders and ministers to Mumbai and New Delhi from Feb. 18 to Feb. 20 as he seeks to boost trade with the South Asian nation. The premier is seeking new markets for goods and services as the euro-area economy, the U.K.’s main trading partner, struggles to expand.

U.K. officials will be looking for details from their Indian counterparts on how the talks with France are progressing. India’s proposal to buy the Rafale is being evaluated by a government panel before it goes to the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet for approval, Defense Minister A.K. Antony said last week.

India shortlisted the Rafale and Typhoon in April 2011, when it rejected bids from U.S. manufacturers Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., as well as Saab AB and OAO United Aircraft Corp. India is buying the fighters to replace an aging fleet of Russian MiG-21s and Dassault Mirage 2000s.

The contract might have a value of as much as $20 billion, according to Deba Ranjan Mohanty, chairman of Indicia Research & Advisory, a New Delhi-based defense research organization.

Separately, Cameron will press Indian leaders for easier access for foreign companies to open multibrand retail outlets. Ikea of Sweden AB cleared another hurdle toward being the first foreign company to open its own stores last month after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government passed regulations that allowed single-brand companies to operate without local partners.

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