Paris/New Delhi: It’s Advantage France as Paris seems to have won the battle of nerves with New Delhi over its acquisition of Rafale fighter jets. The decision by France’s Dassault, the Rafale’s manufacturer, to stand firm on its reservations on some aspects of the MMRCA global tender terms, seems to have paid off since India’s decision to separately buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in “flyaway” condition (off-the-shelf) will mean that there will be no technology transfer in this acquisition, thus raising question marks on the “Make in India” initiative.
Also, with this announcement, the MMRCA tender seems to have lost much of its immediate relevance, and the three-year-old contract negotiations are likely to further drag on.
Though the IAF is relieved it will get new fighters at last, New Delhi’s decision shows how much India still depends on direct foreign armament and equipment imports to maintain defence preparedness.
Sources said in the three year-long protracted contract negotiations between India and Dassault, that continued in the past 10 months of the Modi government, both sides had refused to budge on what they perceived as their viewpoints on the terms and conditions of the MMRCA tender. Dassault, initially, had reservations on the role of state-run HAL as lead integrator for the 108 Rafale aircraft to be built in India under technology transfer from France, had the MMRCA RFP acquisition process finally gone through.
French sources told this newspaper that Dassault could not be held responsible if there was any delay in timelines for manufacture on the part of HAL. There were also reportedly some concerns raised on accountability. There were earlier reports of some differences between India and Dassault over the pricing of the deal, which could have been pegged at around $20 billion. The MMRCA RFP had stipulated that only 18 of the proposed 126 fighters would be acquired in “flyaway” condition.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar had also insisted Dassault must fully adhere to the terms of the MMRCA RFP, issued back in 2007.
India perhaps assumed that sooner or later, the French would be desperate enough to come around in order to bag the multi-billion dollar deal.
But in the end, it was “critical operational necessity” that compelled India to go in for a separate government-to-government agreement.
High-level meet in Paris today over Rafale sale
French President Francois Hollande would chair a high-level meeting in Paris on Monday to thrash out the finer details of the nearly $5 billion deal for the sale of 36 Rafale jets to India in flyaway conditions.
French sources said the meeting at the Elysee Palace would be held between Hollande, his top officials and executives from Dassault Aviation, the manufacturers of the Rafale jets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked France to supply 36 Rafale jets in flyaway conditions as soon as possible in view of the critical operational necessity of the IAF.
“There was nobody, either from Indian side or the French side, when the two leaders spoke about the Rafale. Everyone would be briefed in detail on Monday about what transpired and discussions would be held on how it can be taken forward,” sources said....