‘Rafale negotiations in final stage, but India will not hurry’

New Delhi, Jan 11 (IANS) The negotiations on the Rafale jet fighter deal are in final stage, but India will not hurry to conclude the deal before the visit of French President Francois Hollande who is to be the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day parade.

Highly placed sources in the defence ministry said that India would wish to sign the deal when the French president comes, but they do not want to hurry up with the procedure as loopholes may remain.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India will buy 36 Rafale fighters during his visit to France last year under a government to government deal.

“Who would not want the deal to be inked when the French president is coming. It may or may not happen, we do not want to hurry up with the procedure,” said a highly placed source.

The negotiations are now in the final stage, and there have been speculations of the deal being inked when Hollande comes to India.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had short listed Rafale for induction into its frontline combat fleet, replacing the ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 squadrons but the deal did not materialise for long.

The original deal, with an estimated cost of $20 billion, was for delivery of 126 fighters, including 18 off-the-shelf by Dassault, and 108 to be manufactured in India under licensed production by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) over time, with 50 percent offset obligations to benefit the domestic aerospace industry.

The IAF opted for the twin-engined Rafale in January 2012 over Eurofighter Typhoon of the European consortium EADS Cassidian after turning down F-16 of American Lockheed Martin, F/A-18 of Boeing, MiG-35 of Russian United Aircraft Corp and Swedish SAAB’s Gripen in a global competitive bid floated in August 2007.

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