Rafale deal stuck in negotiations

Rafale Deal

NEW DELHI (TIP): Five months after India announced the deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets “off the shelf” from France, much of the expectations from the big-ticket deal appears to have evaporated due to protracted negotiations that look set to continue for some more months

While voices from both sides say there is hope for the deal being concluded by December this year, on the French side there is some frustration at the long-winded nature of the negotiations.

The deal for purchase of the 36 Rafale jets, by Dassault Aviation, was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris in April. India decided to purchase the 36 jets from Paris in a flyaway condition in a government-to-government agreement.

The Indian Air Force, which badly needs to replace its aging fleet of Soviet MIG aircraft, was looking forward to the new planes.

However, the offsets clause that requires 50 percent of indigenous content in big-ticket defence contracts is believed to be a stumbling block, as also the pricing.

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The deal is estimated at $8 billion. While India and France are still involved in the sticky negotiations, Egypt has already welcomed three Rafale jets into the country in July -five months after inking a deal for 24 of the French jets.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inked the contract for 24 Rafales in Cairo in February, in an estimated $5.6 billion deal. Qatar also inked a deal in March this year for purchase of 24 Rafale jets.

According to reports, three twin-seat variant of the jet were delivered in Cairo on July 21. Egypt inked a deal to acquire 16 two-seaters and eight single-seaters Rafale fighters. France is also training Egyptian pilots to fly the Rafale.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Cairo a few days after France delivered the jets. He was to visit India on August 31 during which the deal was expected to be inked. Le Drian was in Malaysia to hardsell the Rafale and the Mistral warship.However, he flew straight on to Europe after it became known that the negotiations were not likely to be concluded soon.

The Indian defence ministry had at the time refused to confirm his visit.

According to French envoy Francois Richier, the defence minister had to fly to Europe to attend a EU defence ministers meeting. Richier said France is hopeful of concluding the negotiations soon.

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