India has started talks with French manufacturer Dassault Aviation to fix the terms and conditions for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets that the Narendra Modi government decided to buy in April.
“A negotiating team has been constituted to negotiate the terms and conditions of the procurement of 36 Rafale jets and recommend the draft agreement. The meetings of the Indian negotiating team with the French side have commenced,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Tuesday.
The minister said the delivery will be in a time frame to suit operational requirements of the Indian Air Force.
“The delivery would be in a time frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF, and that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force, and with a longer maintenance responsibility by France,” Parrikar said.
India recently announced buying 36 Rafale fighter jets in flyaway condition, when Modi was visiting France.
The IAF had short listed Rafale for induction into its frontline combat fleet, replacing the ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 squadron 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.
Parrikar earlier said all future negotiations for purchase of Rafale fighters would be through government to government route.