IHS Defence has quoted India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar as having said at a press conference in New Delhi that negotiations with Dassault over the purchase of 126 Rafale fighters have suffered 'complications'. Parrikar did not specify these difficulties, but stated that additional Russian licence-built Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighters would be "adequate" for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the event of the Rafale deal being scrapped.
The Hindustan Times source attributed the delay in the fighter project to France reneging on "key conditions" laid down in the global tender for acquiring the jets.
India had selected Rafale fighters over Eurofighter Typhoons in January 2012 after French firm Dassault Aviation emerged as the lowest bidder for the world's biggest fighter contract. But negotiations have yielded little progress with both sides haggling over clauses in the proposed contract for nearly three years.
In September, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had told Hindustan Times that it was critical to keep the Rafale fighter deal on schedule as the air force could not afford any more delays.
This has apparently sent the alarm bells ringing in Paris. India Economic Times reports that ‘a French 'empowered' delegation is likely to visit India this month to carry forward the much- delayed talks for the multi-billion dollar contract for 126 Rafale fighter aircraft"
A top government official told Hindustan Times that under existing rules, there was no scope for the Eurofighter consortium, backed by four European countries, including UK, to re-enter the race to sell its Typhoon fighters to India. The Germany-led consortium had come up with a revised proposal — sweetened with a discount — to sell 126 Typhoons to India.
The deal, described as the "world's biggest French kiss", writes the Calcutta Telegraph, was estimated to be $10 billion initially but by common consent has now soared upwards of $20 billion, making it one of the biggest military contracts in the world.
Three years after the selection, a senior Indian defence official has confirmed that the Indian negotiators are wary because "the French seem to be going back on their word".
Russian observers point out that India might have been watching with concern France's backtracking on the delivery of two Mistral landing warships to Russia that are being built in France. India has been insisting that the aircraft should be assembled in India — as an apparent insurance against any change of mind by the French government.
Indian defence ministry officials speculated privately, reports the Calcutta Times on what the air force's options were — ordering more Sukhoi 30Mkis from Russia, for instance — to meet the requirement for medium multi-role combat aircraft.
Is the French kiss coming unstuck?— asks the paper.