NEW DELHI: As the 126 fighter jet deal Rafale is hanging in balance, the Indian government is working on an alternate plan B if the deal does not go through. A top defence ministry official claimed that the government that India will go for strengthening its Su-30 fleet if $22 billion deal with France fails to break deadlock.
“If the on-going deadlock continues, we can go for strengthening existing Su-30Mki fleet to meet IAF’s combat requirement,” a top defence ministry official said.
At present IAF has about 200 Sukhoi- 30 fleet, which represents almost a third of the country's fighter plane fleet. IAF is already down to 34 combat squadrons, as against an authorised strength of 44. Each squadron has up to 18 fighter planes.
When Rafale was declared the lowest bidder in January 2012, all eyes were on the inking of this deal that was touted as the ‘mother of all defence deals’. But the cost negotiation committee set up in February 2012 to work out the modalities for the deal has not reached a conclusion yet.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has told his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian earlier this month that French government should send an empowered person to break the deadlock.
“I have asked French defence minister to send an empowered person to break the impasse. And he has assured to send somebody by early next month. Let’s see how things work after that,” Parrikar said.
Express has reported last week that the much-awaited multi-billion dollar Rafale combat aircraft deal with France has once again run into rough weather, as negotiations between the New Delhi and French company refused to move ahead.
After cost escalation, the French major Dassault Aviation, which manufacture Rafale fighter jets, have refused to take "full responsibility" for the 108 fighters to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) as per the original tender. Eighteen of the 126 planes will be purchased directly from Dassault, while Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will manufacture the other 108 under a licence, at an upcoming facility in Bangalore.
Key officials in the South block, which houses the defence ministry has made it clear that “The ministry is in no hurry to conclude the negotiations despite what people may say. Dassault has to accept commitment mentioned in the RFP (Request for proposal),”.
Sources also said the Dassault India representatives have repeatedly denied meeting with the ministry of defence officials, including Verma, and it can be seen as a message to the French firm about India’s firm stand on the issue.
Another ministry insider said the production sharing agreement with HAL is stuck as well. Furthermore Dassault is not agreeing to HAL’s demand that it take responsibility for manufacture in India, regardless of French government’s pressure. It is too risky, according to a defence ministry source.