On his India visit, French President has shown camaraderie with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Besides several pacts that have been between two countries, there was also a discussion about the sale of another 36 rafale jets.

It must be noted after more than a decade-long negotiation, India has moved to finalize 36 Rafale jets from France. On his current visit, French Defence Minister Florence Parly proposed to sell 36 more jets to India. However, there has not been any confirmation from India yet. In its reply, the Indian defense ministry said that no decision had been taken yet.

The first delivery of the Rafale jets is expected between November 2019 and mid-2022; however, Indian Air Force has reiterated that its fleet has been depleted for quite some time and needs the fresh infusion of more jets. Hence, there have been murmurs of more jets being sought by the government. Moreover, the Indian government has chosen to remain tight-lipped about any defense deal.

Defense deals to counter China

In the backdrop of an aggressive China, India has been looking closely at its defense capabilities; therefore, it comes as a no surprise that a weak Indian Air Force plays to the advantage of India’s eastern neighbor. Amid speculations by opposition parties about corruption in the Rafale deal, the Indian government has chosen to remain discreet as well as look at expanding its armed forces.

The main stress has been on building indigenously developed arms and ammunition. In the light of lack of technical expertise, the Indian government is also mulling to increase Foreign Direct Investment to 100 percent. Therefore, it does make sense that foreign governments are bringing up defense deals during the bilateral discussions.

Rafale deal: Brief history

It was in the early 2000s when in a bid to upgrade its Air Force capabilities, India was seeking 126 fighter jets where Dassault’s Rafale pipped Eurofighter Typhoon; the deal included 36 jets. The total worth of the deal is said to be Rs 59,000 crore; however, the deal has been shrouded by controversy for all the wrong reasons.

At first, it was the controversy about the kickbacks that some lobbyists earned from the arms dealer. Later it was about the overpricing of the Rafale jets; there were also suggestions that the Eurofighter Typhoon jets were superior to Rafale jets.

Since 2014, when Modi government came to power the deal was expected to pick up pace due to new government’s proposed robust defense policy. It was only after the direct intervention and several meetings by former Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that the deal went through smoothly. The biggest obstacle during the whole negotiation process was the transfer of technology by Rafale. Eventually, both the parties settled for license manufacturing technology and also assist the Modi government’s “Make In India” initiative.