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BW Businessworld

Rafale: Desperate Measures

36 state-of-the art Rafale aircraft will replace some of the vintage MiG series fighter jets

Photo Credit :

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The Indian government intends to replace its vin­tage MiG series fighter jets with the more mod­ern Rafale fighter planes. An agreement has at last been worked out at the end of negotiations that lasted a decade with the French aircraft manu­facturer Dassault Avia­tion. India will purchase 36 Rafale aircraft. Even before the first fighter jet could land on Indian soil though, the contract has already acquired the no­toriety of a “dirty defence deal”.

A controversy is raging both in India and France over Dassault Aviation selecting Reliance De­fence Limited (RDL) for Rafale’s Rs 30,000 crore offset obligations. Reli­ance Defence has no prior experience in manufac­turing components for aviation, in contradiction of  the “most relevant” clause in the offset dis­charge mechanism.

Speaking at the BW Defence conference on 27  July, Air Force Deputy Chief, Air Marshal Rag­hunath Nambiar, had said capability and tech­nology had been  the sole parameters for the Rafele deal. Yet Dassault Avia­tion has chosen a partner who is a novice in aviation technology.

The Indian govern­ment has denied having any say in the selection  of an offset partner for the Rafale deal. France’s for­mer President, Francois Holland (during whose tenure the nuances of  the deal were worked out in 2015) has however, gone on record to say that the Indian government had recommended RDL as an offset partner for Das­sault Aviation.

A previous MMRC agreement had been fi­nalised late in 2012 be­tween Dassault and the Indian government of the day, after protracted talks. It was agreed then wthat Dassault would sell its aircraft at a base price of $10.2 billion and that 18 of  the 126 planes would be imported in a fly-away condition. The remaining 118 aircraft would be manufactured by HAL, to which the French company would transfer technology. Das­sault was also obligated to invest half the trans­action amount in India. The reworked agreement with Dassault does not provide for transfer of   technology to India.

Union Defence Minis­ter Nirmala Sitharaman had a chat recently with a select group of  journal­ists – none of whom spe­cialise in defence. Some desperate measures seem to be afoot for dam­age conrol.