It has been exactly two years when Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a deal with French President Francois Hollande for the supply of Dassault Aviation’s 36 Rafale fighter jets ”at the earliest” in flyaway condition. The earliest date of delivery will be 2019, the year of general election in India.
The two leaders had agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement for supply of the aircraft. However, The Inter Governmental Agreement was signed by the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his visiting French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian 17 months after Modi announced plans to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft during his trip to France in April 2015. The haggling on various aspects of the supply took 16 months and finally the deal was clinched for Euro 7.87 billion wherein the net price of the 36 aircraft is 3.42 billion euros. During its tenure, the Congress-led ruling UPA coalition worked to buy 126 Rafale jets, the minimum number for IAF’s requirements. The value of the 126 jets was USD 12 billion worked out in 2012.
Modi changed the decision to make it 36 jets and, in spite of the Indian Air Force being short of fighter aircraft, seemed to have delayed the agreement so that the delivery is made in 2019, the year the general elections will be due in India.
As per the agreement the delivery will start in 36 months from the date of signing the agreement which makes it September 2019, but The French industry sources say that Dassault had started planning for the Indian order from mid-2015 itself, and “maybe the deliveries could be faster, if required”. The delivery will be completed in 66 months. There seems to be a plan to get the Rafale fighter before the general elections in May 2019 to gain political mileage out of the acquisition.
In the Indian defence ministry it is being said that in its eagerness to obtain the Rafale, the IAF has deliberately placed holds on every other aircraft procurement, including the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), the Tejas and the plan to extend the Jaguar’s service life by fitting it with a new engine.
Another acquisition for the 2019 general elections will be the S-400 missile system agreed to by the Russian President Vladimir Putin during Modi’s recent visit to Moscow. The missile system has a tracking range of 600 km and ability to hit targets 400 km away at a speed of 17,000 km an hour – faster than any existing aircraft. Though one of the news channels touted the S-400 as a gift from Putin to Modi, It is not so. The cost of the entire system having eight launchers, a control centre, radar and 16 missiles as reloads, would be over USD 500 million each. In all the cost is estimated at around Rs.40000 crore to India. Is that called a gift? To correct the channel, the term is – deal.
India is looking at buying at least 5 such systems. If there are no hindrances in way, the first delivery of the system is expected in 2020 or maybe in 2019, the year of general election. Modi seems to lining up all acquisitions and his achievements for the general election in 2019.