India and France are hoping for a major breakthrough on Tuesday on the proposed multi-billion dollar 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal when visiting French defence minister Jean Yves Le Drian will hold a 90-minute crucial meeting with defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
Talks are stuck on contract-negotiation with French firm Dassault — manufacturer of the Rafale aircraft — after certain problems allegedly cropped up regarding acceptance of complete responsibility by the French firm for the 108 aircraft (out of 126) that will be manufactured in India by the lead integrator—stae-run HAL.
Sources said France could agree to firmly adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding the manufacture of the 108 aircraft in India but French sources said it is up to HAL to stick to deadlines.
In the proposed deal, 18 aircraft will be supplied in “fly-away” condition by Dassault. Work had already begun earlier on the draft for the proposed deal amid speculation that the deal could be to the tune of about $20 billion when it is inked. Dassault was earlier selected as the “L-1” (lowest financial bidder) among the two firms selected after the completion of the technical trials.
The IAF is eagerly looking forward to clinching the deal to bolster the number of its fighter squadrons. It remains to be seen whether the French Government provides any guarantees to India to clinch the deal during the talks on Tuesday which is being seen as a make-or-break attempt to reach an agreement on the deal. If talks are successful, the proposed draft of the deal is expected to be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for clearance before the deal is formally inked with Dassault. The Modi Government is going all-out to ensure that crucial defence acquisitions are not delayed.