France pitches for more, India yet to take call

France pitches for more, India yet to take call

France has pitched for selling more Rafale aircraft to India, but the defence ministry is yet to take a decision.

"Yes, the French minister raised the matter, but I have not given any response," said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman when asked whether her French counterpart Florence Parly took up the issue in her official meeting last month.

In September 2016, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 French origin combat jets for the IAF in a flyaway condition. The first one is expected to touch down by September 2019.

But two squadrons of Rafale are far too less as against IAF's requirement to have 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft that were negotiated in the UPA regime.

While procurement of 36 French fighters is an emergency option, one of the tasks before the defence ministry is to source the remaining 90 aircraft and some more that IAF needs.

Buying more Rafale is one of the choices on the table. Another option is to have a single-engine fighter aircraft assembly in India, on which two companies USA's Lockheed Martin and Sweden's Saab evinced interest. The government, Nirmala pointed out, has not taken any decision.

On the offset agreement linked to the French deal, the defence minister said the contracts had not yet been signed for the 36 Rafale deal (worth nearly 59,000 crore). "We will sign it and abide by the inter-governmental agreement," she said.