Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said the future procurement of Rafale fighter jets will also be through government-to-government (G-to-G) route. Without directly commenting on the future of the original tender negotiations for 126 Rafale fighter jets, the minister used an anecdote saying, “one car cannot run on two roads” indicating a likely end of road for the tender route. The comments also put an end to likely entry of another player in the original deal.
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Speaking just three days after India asked France to supply 36 Rafale jets in a fly-away condition, Parrikar in his South Block office said that the earlier deal-which is officially still on-was mired in “confusion” and “chaos”-which led to the government deciding to go for the G-to-G route. The future “deal” will be in G-to-G mode and that “36 planes will be manufactured by the company in France,” he said.
The Indo-France joint statement on April 10, while announcing the purchase, had said that “Inter-Governmental
Agreement” is being done on terms better than ones under “the separate process underway”-leaving an open end to the ongoing negotiations. Parrikar’s comments may, in all likelihood, mean an end of road for the direct negotiations with the manufacturer, Dassault. As per the original contract, 18 of the 126 aircraft were to be bought off-the-shelf from Dassault while 108 were to be manufactured in India under transfer of technology (ToT) to state- owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The negotiations, which were going on since January 2012, when Dassault was declared the lowest bidder, was further complicated when two sides locked horns over who should take responsibility of the aircraft manufactured by HAL. The delay also resulted in increasing the cost of the project from about 10 billion$ to nearly 20 billion$.
The government’s decision to buy 36 aircraft directly from French government, which cleverly avoided the legal complications that would have arisen out of tampering with ongoing negotiations, was perceived by many as going against the government’s Make in India slogan. Parrikar, however, said that scope is being analyzed for Indian participation for the procurement of future aircraft.