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Rafale deal to top French Foreign Minister’s agenda

Atul Aneja &
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Induction of fighter jets will bolster the ‘air dominance’ doctrine of the IAF: analysts

France is set to impart a high-level push to clinch the stalled multi-billion dollar Rafale aircraft deal during Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visit to New Delhi on Monday. He is expected to infuse fresh life into a “strategic partnership” that has hit several roadblocks.

Ahead of his arrival, diplomatic sources acknowledged that the elusive Rafale contract would be a focal area, but stressed that designating the Minister’s tour as a “Rafale visit” would be misplaced.

“Negotiations (for the aircraft deal) are moving step-by-step. The pace is decided by the importance of the deal,” the sources said. Expressing optimism, the sources observed that “we expect this agreement to be signed in due course,” as there are no “big issues” impeding the deal.

Defence sources revealed that a “work share” formula between Dassault — the French producer of the fighter jets — and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been achieved. At the outset 18 planes would be flown in from France, while the remaining 108 would be manufactured in India.

Officials at HAL have stated that land has been earmarked near Bangalore, where major elements of the plane, that has already seen action in Afghanistan and North Africa, would be produced.

After assembling these planes from Completely Knocked Down (CKD) and Semi-Knocked Down (SKD) kits in the beginning, HAL would manufacture major parts of the plane, including fuselage and other units, pursuing a technology transfer arrangement with Dassault and Snecma, the French engine maker.

Analysts pointed out that in case the deal materialises, the induction of Rafale fighter jets would bolster the “air dominance” doctrine of the Indian Air Force, which has already invested in the multi-role SU-30 planes and the Mirage-2000 fighters, capable of launching deep strikes, rather than restricting themselves air defence.

The French have successfully converted part of their fleet for nuclear weapons delivery, but it is not yet clear whether these planes would become part of India’s “nuclear triad” if the IAF inducts the Rafales in its fleet.

Civilian n-energy

The visiting Minister is expected to focus on two other elements of the “strategic relationship” with France — civilian nuclear energy and space.

Diplomatic sources said the Nuclear Liability Law, which puts the onus of compensation on the supplier, in case of a nuclear accident, was “not an issue” between the two countries. However, the French were looking for greater clarity about the implementation of the legislation so that pricing and related issues could be addressed. France has submitted a tender for two 1650-megawatts reactors for the Jaitapur site in Maharashtra and eventually intends to add four more reactors at this site.

Mr. Fabius will meet his counterpart Sushma Swaraj and deliver a message from French President Francois Hollande, inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Paris “during this year itself.” A meeting is also expected with Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.


  • Work share formula between Dassault and HAL has been achieved: Defence sources

  • Mr. Fabius visit is also expected to focus on civilian nuclear energy and space



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