An India ministerial panel is said to have approved the purchase of 36 new fighter jets made by France’s Dassault Aviation SA, concluding a major step in its decade-long quest to modernize the country’s air force.
The Cabinet Committee on Security, which includes the prime minister, defense, foreign and finance ministers, has cleared the deal worth 8 billion euros ($8.9 billion) for Rafale fighter jets, people with knowledge of the matter said. The deal is likely to be signed later this week in New Delhi by India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, they said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public.
The French embassy in Delhi and Anupam Banerjee, spokesman for the Indian Air Force, declined to comment. The deal would mark an end to a decade-long hunt for new planes to keep pace with neighbors Pakistan and China and to replace an aging fleet of fighter jets. The search, which started in 2007, has seen repeated delays since India began talks with the Paris-based company in 2012 to build 126 warplanes at an estimated cost of about $11 billion -- the world’s biggest fighter jet deal at the time. As talks stalled over price and quality guarantees, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to directly buy 36 fighter jets from the French government last April to speed things up. The new terms would allow India to acquire planes as quickly as possible on better terms than those offered by Dassault, which had long struggled to find external buyers for its fighter.
Both sides had agreed last year that the memorandum of understanding will include delivery dates, the equipment, systems and weapons to be carried by the jet. It will also cover an offset clause which will mandate Dassault to invest a certain portion of the deal value for local manufacturing in India over the years.