Suspense is mounting on whether India will finally bite the bullet and ink the deal for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft with the French government ahead of the visit of French President Francois Hollande j
Suspense is mounting on whether India will finally bite the bullet and ink the deal for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft with the French government ahead of the visit of French President Francois Hollande just before Republic Day. Top sources indicated that though the proposed deal is at a “final stage”, cost negotiations were still on but other sources indicated that a “positive” development would emerge ahead of the French President’s visit. Speculation is also rife that a French defence delegation will visit New Delhi ahead of the French President’s visit and that an agreement could be inked on the deal as a “sweetener” in the strategic defence ties with France. There are indications the deal could cost India about Rs 65,000 crore but there is no clarity on this, officially. Price negotiations had earlier hit a roadblock.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to France earlier in 2015, had announced that India would acquire 36 Rafale MMRCA, citing operational necessity of the IAF. News agency reports had earlier claimed that the negotiations had run into rough weather over the “offset clause and tweaking of weaponry technology which is driving up the cost”. One of the key issues reportedly was the IAF seeking modifications on the Rafale.
After expressing the intention to acquire 36 French Rafale fighter aircraft from France, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had a few months ago informed Parliament that the earlier-issued request for proposal in 2007 for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) has been “withdrawn” by the government as a result.
Dassault had been earlier selected as the lowest financial bidder (L1) in the MMRCA process but there had been protracted contract negotiations between India and Dassault. Since the proposed deal had made no headway, India had then decided — during Mr Modi’s visit to France — that it would acquire 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France by a separate process.
In a detailed statement earlier in a written reply to Parliament, Mr Parrikar had said, “The government of India conveyed to the government of France that in view of the critical operational necessity for multirole combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force, the government of India would like to acquire (36) Rafale jets in fly-away condition as quickly as possible.
The two leaders agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for supply of the aircraft on terms that would be better than conveyed by Dassault Aviation as part of a separate process underway, the delivery would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF; and that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by IAF, and with a longer maintenance responsibility by France. A Negotiating Team has been constituted to negotiate the terms and conditions of the procurement of 36 Rafale jets and recommend a draft agreement. The meetings of the Indian Negotiating team with the French side have commenced.”