Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar will meet French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the sidelines of this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, taking place in Singapore from June 3-5. According to The Economic Times, the two minister will discuss the $8.9 billion contract for the purchase of 36 fourth generation Dassault Rafale multirole fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.
“Both Indian and French Defense Ministers will meet on June 3. Rafale among others will be discussed,” an Indian defense official revealed. The Indian defense minister is seeking to conclude the deal by the end of June. Topics to be discussed during the meeting include “consensus on actions to be taken in case of a material breach, stringent liability clause and guarantee by French,” according to The Economic Times.
It was only in April that India and France agreed on a price for the 36 off-the-shelf Dassault Rafale twin-engine aircraft (See: “India to Pay $9 Billion for 36 French Fighter Jets”). An additional contentious issue was the offset clause, which stipulates that France has to invest 50 percent of the contract value as offsets in India “including aeronautics, electronics and micro-electronics technologies,” as I previously noted.
Other stumbling blocks included the delivery date of the aircraft and technical issues including the modification and reconfiguration of the fighter jets to permit the installation of Indian-made and commercial-off-the-shelf and weapons systems, I explained back in January.
My colleague, Ankit Panda, pointed out that frustration among French officials has been rising in the last couple of months. “If you don’t want the Rafale, go ahead and build the F-16 here. You can build it in India and supply it to Pakistan also,” one official was quoted as saying, referring to a separate bilateral deal between the United States and Pakistan over the purchase of eight F-16 fighter aircraft.
The AgustaWestland graft scandal has further jeopardized and delayed the conclusion of the Rafale agreement, The Diplomat reported in May:
Speaking before India’s parliament last week, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said that the pending talks with the French government would come under renewed scrutiny, likely due to renewed attention in India on the AgustaWestland scandal given recent verdicts handed down in the case in Italy.
During French President François Hollande’s visit to India in January 2016, an intergovernmental agreement detailing the technical aspects of the defense deal was finally signed by Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As I reported previously (See: “Confirmed: India to Buy Only 36 Rafale Fighter Jets”):
Initially, the MMRCA [medium multi-role combat aircraft] project envisioned that India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) would build 108 out of a 126 total Rafale jets locally, with the first batch of 18 fighter jets directly delivered from France in flyaway condition.
However, New Delhi unexpectedly announced in April of this year that it would only purchase 36 French-made Rafale fighters instead of the original 126.(…)
The price tag for the 36 off-the-shelf Rafale will substantially be cheaper since France is no longer obligated to build the planes in India. (…)
The first aircraft are expected to be delivered approximately 18 months after the signing of a final contract.