NEW DELHI: In a bid to break the ongoing impasse on the Rafale fighter jet deal, a high-level delegation of Indian and French officials met in the South Block on Wednesday afternoon. The Price Negotiation Committee formed to work out modalities on the 36 Rafale warplanes has not been able to conclude its task as it has not been able to strike a compromise.
Thirty-six nuclear-capable Rafale jets will be delivered to India in fly-away condition, fitted with weapon systems, such as array radar, high end beyond-visual-range missiles and defensive weapon systems. The deal will also include a support and maintenance package with the manufacturer, Dassault. The Indo-French High Committee on defence cooperation meeting scheduled for March 9, 10 was chaired by the Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar. Defence industry, procurement and research technology were the areas that were focussed. The status of several defence deals between the two nations was also discussed, including the Rafale jet and Short Range Surface to Air Missile joint development.
“During the meeting, it was believed that French authorities gave a fresh proposal with amendments to make the Rafale deal more attractive. The Indian side is examining the proposal,” an officer said. According to a top Defence Ministry official privy to the development, India is targeting a cost between `65-68,000 crore (8 billion Euros) for 36 Rafale fighter jets. However, on the other side, Dassault, which manufactures the aircraft has quoted a whopping figure of the nearly 90,000 crore (12 billion Euros).
As a compromise was not reached, the deal could not be inked during French President Hollande’s visit to New Delhi last month during Republic Day celebrations. It only dashed the hopes of the IAF, which is struggling to cope with its depleting fleet strength, but also caused embarrassment to New Delhi as no major announcement was made during the meeting of the top political leadership of both countries. In a joint statement on 25 January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Hollande had hoped to sort out the financial aspects in ‘couple of days’. Even Dassault Aviation had said it expected a complete agreement in four weeks.