New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Indian government that has been facing strong criticism from opposition parties for clinching an "exorbitantly costly" intergovernmental deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets after aborting a global tender for 126 such aircrafts, has put up a brave face and insisted that the deal in hand is far better than the aborted deal.
The Indian government, in 2000, had initiated a procurement of 126 Mirage-2000 aircraft to replace the existing MiG-21 fleet of the Indian Air Force. The process was later converted into a global tender for procurement of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in which Dassault Aviation's Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon had emerged as primary contenders.
However, in 2016, India and France clinched an intergovernmental agreement for the procurement of 36 Rafale jets at the cost of $8.7 billion. The opposition has since been questioning the government's intent behind aborting the global tender without citing reasons for not procuring the 126 MMRCA from either Dassault or Eurofighter, which the opposition claims could have been available at a cost way lower than that of the later contracted 36 Rafale fighters.
Indian defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman has now clarified before the Parliament that the 126 MMRCA deal and the contract for 36 Rafale fighters are not to be compared and that there have been no "procedural lapses" in the latter deal, as it was signed with France only after following the approval of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). She also claimed that the contract for 36 Rafale has been negotiated on far better terms.
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"The cost of the 36 Rafale Aircraft cannot be directly compared to the cost of the original MMRCA proposal as the deliverables are significantly different. Though there is no Transfer of Technology (ToT) in the procurement of the 36 Rafale aircraft, the provision of 50% offsets has been retained," Nirmala Sitharaman said in the Parliament on Monday.
"In the IGA, better terms have been achieved in terms of better pricing, better maintenance terms and better delivery schedule. There is no increase in the cost. Instead, a better price has been ensured," Sitharaman assured the Parliament.