Rafale fighter deal before DAC soon: Minister

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) Most roadblocks in the negotiations between France and India for the sale of 36 Rafale fighters have been addressed and the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) will soon take up the matter, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said on Tuesday.

“There are a few things which need to be addressed. The matter will possibly come up before the DAC in its next meeting. Thereafter, I think, the road will be clear,” the minister said on the sidelines of a seminar on ‘Make in India’ for the Indian Air Force.

Asked about the cost issues that kept the deal from finalisation, the minister said: “The country can progress only if the country is safe and protected.”

Singh said both the Rafale and the indigenous light combat aircraft Tejas are needed for the country’s defence.

According to sources, India and France have come closer to finalising the deal for 36 Rafales that India wants to buy and an agreement on the price may be reached soon.

A major sticking point in the deal is the price of the jets, known to be one of the most expensive in the world. India has been trying to bring down the sale price of the jets.

While it has not been revealed if an agreement has been struck on how much India would pay, attempts had been on to bring the price down to under eight billion euros or Rs.6,000 crore for 36 Rafales.

In January, both sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the purchase during French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India.

Meanwhile, Singh on Tuesday released a booklet on ‘Indigenisation Roadmap for the Indian Air Force’ and said it would provide useful inputs to the defence industry to map its potential with the IAF requirements.

The seminar was jointly organised by the IAF and Confederation of India Industry.

The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, meanwhile said there is a “huge potential” for indigenisation in manufacture of capital equipment and spares.

“The IAF is in the process of modernising and expanding its inventory to keep up with the changing geo-political scenario and emerging threat perception.

“There exists a huge potential for indigenisation in the manufacture of capital equipment and maintenance spares. Economical and optimal exploitation of such potential by the Indian industry would lead to greater self-reliance,” Raha said.

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