By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Jan 16
In the first time a senior official has publicly announced a time line for wrapping up negotiations on India’s proposed purchase of 36 Rafale fighters, France’s ambassador to New Delhi says he expects the price to be negotiated and agreed to within four months.
“It will be too long if it goes beyond that”, said Ambassador Francois Richier, speaking to journalist Karan Thapar on India Today TV on Wednesday evening.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting President Francois Hollande of France signed an inter-governmental agreement (IGA), agreeing that India would purchase 36 Rafale fighters from French company, Dassault Aviation. However, both leaders admitted that the price of the contract continued to be a sticking point.
Richier said France was hopeful that, eventually, India would buy more than 36 Rafales. He said that if the contract were extended beyond 36 fighters, there would definitely be a “Make in India” component to the deal.
It has been reported that the deal for 36 Rafales, in flyaway condition, could include an “options” clause of 50 per cent of the contract size. In that case, New Delhi would decide whether or not to buy an additional 18 fighters.
Aerospace industry experts unanimously agree that very little “Make in India” would be possible with just 18 additional Rafales. At best, they would be assembled in India from knocked down kits.
Richier also confirmed in the interview that the Rafale offset agreement had been finalised. However he refused to confirm whether 50 per cent offsets would be imposed on Dassault and Thales, the main Tier-1 supplier to the Rafale programme.
In 2012, Dassault was declared the winner of India’s global tender for 126 medium fighters. However, with price negotiations deadlocked, Modi and Hollande agreed last April that India would buy 36 Rafales on favourable terms. However, these price negotiations too have not made headway.