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Rafale deal in final lap ahead of French President Francois Hollande’s India visit

Rafale deal in final lap ahead of French President Francois Hollande's India visit

It will be a dash to the finishing line if the contract for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force has to be signed during the upcoming visit of French President Francois Hollande in the last week of January. A team of French officials is in India working even a day before Christmas to give final touches to the technical and contractual details of the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA).

The officials are expected to wrap up technical and contractual ingredients of the purchase within a week. Once these issues are put behind, the negotiators would concentrate on the commercial aspects, highly placed sources told MAIL TODAY.

The commercial negotiations on the final price of the deal are expected to go on for another three weeks, if not more, before the final proposal is placed before the ministries of defence and finance. Whether the contract would be signed during the visit of the French president, who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, is still an open-ended question, though it seems that the two events are not linked. India’s mammoth defence requirements and the swift manoeuvrability shown by the government towards accepting new proposals have led to considerable posturing from various powers.

The talks are in advanced stage and the government is satisfied with the way deliberations are going ahead. However, there is no commitment if the deal would be through next month. If it happens, it will be a big statement for India-France strategic ties. With the purchase, the government hopes to tide over the shortage of fighter jets in the Indian Air Force (IAF).

If Rafale deal is moving forward, there is little progress on the proposal to jointly develop a fifth generation fighter with Russia. The stalemate over the whole project continues as the government is now not keen on joint development because of the delays.

Had the original plan to acquire fifth generation fighter jets remained on track, the IAF would have started getting the aircraft from 2017. Since the Prospective Multi-Role Fighter (PMF) – as the proposed fighter is known – is same as Russia’s PAK-FA which is already flying, India is keen to junk the joint development programme.

It had sought access to PAK-FA so that it could get the The commercial negotiations on the final price of the Rafale deal are expected to go on for another three weeks, if not more, before the final proposal is placed before the ministries of defence and finance.

(Above-left) French President Francois Hollande. hang of the machine and assess if it met IAF’s specifications. Russians have still not taken any call on the proposal. Not much movement is expected on the project during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit to Russia.

Despite exploring other options for acquisition of military hardware, India has placed enough in the Russian baskets. It will go for the purchase of the Russian cutting edge S 400 air defence system expected to be worth Rs 40,000 crore. India is also keen to have on lease another nuclear submarine.

The officials said that many countries are offering equipment to India and are keen to take advantage of the “Make in India” scheme. New Delhi is weighing it options before taking a call. One of the areas that is being actively pursued is fulfilling the requirement of large number of drones.

Sources said that all the options are on table including exploring foreign sources like Israel and the US. There are issues in dealing with the US as it wants compliance to Missile Technology Control Regime and ways are being found to sort out the issue.

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