Rafale fighter deal won't be finalised before March: Parrikar

India will decide on going through with the long-delayed deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets from French maker Dassault only after March, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said today.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 10th edition of the Aero India show near Bengaluru, he said the ministry's Contract Negotiations Committee (CNC) is likely to submit its report in early March, before which no decision can be taken.

The contract - the biggest ever defence deal entered into by India - was initially worth around $13 billion when agreed to in 2012, but the cost could now escalate up to $20 billion (Rs1,24,000 crore).

The Rafale fighter jet was picked in 2012 over rival offers from the United States, Europe and Russia. A final deal has been held up due to a stalemate over a crucial component of the deal.

Under the terms of the contract, the winning bidder will supply only 18 of the aircraft directly and the rest will be manufactured in India by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Dassault, however, has been reluctant to provide guarantees for aircraft that are produced in India - which experts consider sensible of the manufacturer, given the state-owned HAL's dismal track record and shoddy performance.