Ahead of French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit, the government on Monday said that negotiations for procurement of Rafale fighter jets for Indian Air Force (IAF) will begin this month and the multi-billion dollar deal will be finalised “as early as possible”.
“The government to government committee will be set up which will begin negotiations on the deal. The negotiations will start anytime in May and we have to conclude them as early as possible,” said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Parrikar made these remarks in Goa.
He, however, refused to set any deadline to seal the much-hyped deal claiming “since it is government to government procedure, the deal would be quick”.
The French Defence Minister is expected to be in New Delhi on May 6 to finalise the modalities for the negotiations.
“He will visit only for the purpose of setting up modalities and take the process forward. We will not be directly involved in future talks. The committee is being appointed for it by two governments to kick start the process and fix the modalities,” Parrikar said.
The Defence Minister said the government appointed committee will complete the negotiations in a time bound fashion.
He said that procedure to work with countries in defence sector has been well established.
“We are working government to government with many countries including the US, Israel and Russia. We have already worked with France in past,” Parrikar said.
He said since it is an important deal the negotiation aspects will be discussed by the governments and terms for the committee would be set up by the defence ministries.
Government’s original plan was to buy 126 Rafale aircraft – valued at around USD 11 billion in the first tender floated in 2007. The planes were envisaged to be made in India with Hindustan Aeronautics.
Given the delays, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a truncated deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for over USD 6 billion, to begin with, during his visit to France last month.