NEW DELHI: Finally, the ‘burst of fire’. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government on Wednesday cleared the much-awaited deal to buy 36 fighter jets from France’s Dassault Aviation.
The green signal for the deal worth ¤7.87 billion ($8.84 billion) was taken in a meeting presided by Modi.
The deal is expected to be signed on Friday, as French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is arriving in Delhi on that day. Of the ¤7.87 billion, about 50 per cent will be covered under offset, which means either France will reinvest this amount in India or source equipment of this value from India.
French President Francois Hollande and Modi had intervened in the procurement of the nuclear-capable Rafale jets in 2015, ordering government-to-government talks after several years of commercial negotiations with Dassault had collapsed.
The leaders agreed to scale back the original plan to buy 126 Rafale planes to just 36 in fly-away condition to meet the Indian Air Force’s urgent needs as it tries to modernise and face an assertive China and long-time foe Pakistan.
Besides other features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of the IAF is the Beyond Visual Range Meteor air-to-air missile with a range of over 150 km. Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean the IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while still staying within Indian territory.
Pakistan currently has only a BVR with 80 km range. During the Kargil war, India used a BVR of 50 km while Pakistan had none. With Meteor, the balance of power has again tilted in India’s favour. Scalp, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range of over 300 km also gives the IAF an edge over its adversaries.
Tough negotiations by the MoD-IAF team extracted many concessions from the French before arriving at a price that is almost ¤750 million less than what was quoted by France in January.