India has formally communicated to France its decision to procure 26 naval variant of the Rafale fighter aircraft for the Indian Navy, kick-starting the procurement process under an intergovernmental framework, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
In July, the Defence Ministry approved the purchase of the Rafale (marine) jets from France, primarily for deployment on board the indigenously built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
The issue of procurement of the Rafale Marine jets is learnt to have figured during Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's recent visit to Paris.
It is learnt that India has sent a letter of request to the French government formally communicating its decision to procure the jets from Dassault Aviation under the government-to-government framework.
The negotiations on pricing and other details are expected to take place after the defence ministry receives a response from the French side, the people familiar with the matter said.
Earlier this month, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier visited New Delhi and discussed various aspects of the proposed procurement by India.
The Defence Ministry in July said the procurement of the jets along with associated ancillary equipment, including weapon systems and spares, would be based on an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) and that price and other terms of purchase will be negotiated with the French government after taking into account all relevant aspects.
The Indian Air Force bought 36 aircraft in fly-away condition. There is a thinking in the IAF that it should go for at least two more squadrons of the Rafale jets.
The defence and strategic ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.
In July, India and France announced a raft of ground-breaking defence cooperation projects, including the joint development of jet and helicopter engines and construction of three Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy.
The two strategic partners also expressed commitment to cooperate in the co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including for the benefit of third countries.