Rafale deal to be re-negotiated at govt level: Parrikar

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has indicated that the $25-billion Indian tender for purchasing 126 advanced combat aircraft from France's Dassault Aviation, signed by the previous UPA government, was as good as dead, and a new deal would have to be negotiated.

Parrikar said on Monday that the negotiations with Dassault for the Rafale MMRCA planes had entered a ''loop'' with no solution in sight; adding that direct negotiations with France would now decide how many more Rafale fighters India would buy; and if this would be in line with Narendra Modi's Make in India programme.

However, the very fact that India has gone for direct purchase of the warplanes in flyaway condition - negating the earlier deal under which the craft would be 'indigenised - seems to be the obverse of 'Make in India'.

Parrikar said any future deal for Rafale fighter jets would be through direct negotiations with the French government.

The information comes two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, amid much media attention, announced India would buy 36 Rafale planes from France for cash in fly-away condition through the government-to-government (G2G) route (See: IAF to induct 36 Rafale jets in two years: Parrikar).

India picked the Rafale over Eurofighter Typhoons in January 2012 as the French company emerged as the lowest bidder for the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender for 126 planes – the biggest military deal in recent global history (Dassault's Rafale bags IAF's $10-billion fighter jet deal).

Parrikar did not specify if the IAF's requirements for more planes would be met through Dassault or if other players could also enter the fray. Asked what it meant for the tendering process, he said it had not been decided yet.

The original plan was to buy 18 Rafales in fly-away condition, while the remaining were to be built in India by the abysmally-performing Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. Dassault was understandably apprehensive about this, given HAL's track record.