‘Rafale deal the best India could have got’

New Delhi: The Euro 7.87 billion deal inked by India and France for the purchase of Rafale aircraft cannot be bettered, government sources reiterated, rejecting allegations that New Delhi paid an excessive price for the multi-role fighters.

Referring to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s October 20 statement on the 36-aircraft deal in “fly-away condition”, the sources said no country had been offered a better deal.

“Rafale is the best deal that we have managed. It was because Prime Minister of India and President of France agreed that we have this deal which has not been offered to any other country,” Parrikar had said, countering allegations by Swaraj Abhiyan that New Delhi paid double the price for the aircraft.

India had on September 23 concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France for the purchase of the jets, the first fighter aircraft deal since the purchase of Sukhois from Russia in the late 1990s.

The fighters will meet the Indian Air Force’s critical operational requirement for a multi-role combat aircraft and enhance its strategic reach, especially in context of arch rival Pakistan.

Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian had signed the IGA for purchase of the fighter jets that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The deal also includes obligations under which the French industrial suppliers will discharge offsets for 50 per cent of the value of the procurement.

Dassault Reliance Aerospace, a joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Defence announced earlier this month, will be the key player in executing the offsets obligations. The 50 per cent offsets obligation of the Indo-French deal is touted as the largest ever for India.

The deal for fighter jets, which are equipped with latest missiles and weapon systems, was preceded by tough negotiations over the price.

Soon after the deal was signed, Parrikar had tweeted: “Will significantly improve India’s strike and defence capabilities.”

The tough price negotiations led to a delay in the finalisation of the deal, which covers delivery of 36 planes, spares and weapons.

The first fighter plane agreement in about two decades was inked almost 16 months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to buy the jets during his visit to France in April last year.

The fighter plane will be equipped with Meteor, a beyond-visual range air-to-air missile expected to considerably advance IAF’s capability in aerial combat. Sources said the missile has a range in excess of 150 km and is of much higher capability than the 80 km range of such weaponry with Pakistan.

The Rafale fighter jet would be delivered within the next 36 to 67 months in fly-away condition along with weapons, training simulator, associated equipment and Performance Based Logistics (PBL) support. Sources said the schedule is better than the delivery schedule proposed earlier by the French side.