RTIwala Trending: The Rafale Deal has been the most talked about the overseas deal. All the major political parties have indulged themselves in mudslinging. This deal has significance for the Indian Air Force but the political parties have always raised their concerns. RTIwala analyses what the entire scenario lays in the whole chaos around Rafale and the deal.
What is a Rafale Aircraft?
Rafales are twin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by Dassault Aviation. Dassault is a much known French firm. Rafale fighter jets are positioned as ‘Omni role’ aircrafts that are competent to execute a wide-range of combat roles such as-
- air supremacy,
- aerial reconnaissance,
- ground support,
- in-depth strike,
- anti-ship strike and
- Nuclear deterrence.
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Why does India need Rafale?
Rafale deal initially began with the mammoth plan of India to revamp its Indian Air Force fleet by introducing MMRCAs. Rafale was not India’s only choice. Several international aviation manufacturers expressed concern upon knowing the Indian government’s plan. Six renowned aircraft manufacturers competed to bag the contract of 126 fighter jets. It has been touted as the largest-ever defense procurement pact of India.
The Initial bidders were:-
- Lockheed Martin’s F-16s,
- Boeing’s F/A-18s,
- Euro fighter Typhoon,
- Russia’s MiG-35
- Sweden’s Saab’s Gripen
All aircraft were tested by the Indian Air Force. After a careful study and analysis of the bids, Euro fighter and Rafale were shortlisted. Dassault bagged the final contract to provide 126 fighter jets. It was the lowest bidder and the aircraft were said to be easy to maintain.
The actual procurement process
Indian Air Force required additional fighter jets in 2001. The current Indian Air Force fleet mainly consists of heavy and light-weight combat aircraft. After analyzing, the Defence Ministry thought-out was bringing in intermediate medium-weight fighter jets. The actual process began in 2007. The Defence Acquisition Council was headed by then Defence Minister A.K. Antony. There was an approval to the Request for Proposal to buy 126 aircraft in August 2007. This was the beginning of the bidding process.
The deal was originally estimated to be worth $10.2 billion (Rs.54,000 crore). The arrangement included acquiring 126 aircraft. 18 of the aircrafts were required to be in fly-away condition. The rest were required to be made in India at the Hindustan Aeronautics facility under the policy of transfer of technology.
What is the actual chaos?
After Rafale won the contract, the Indian side and Dassault Aviation started a dialogue in 2012. Mostly such negotiations usually stretch to several months, the Rafale negotiations have been on for almost four years now. The agreement was signed only in January this year. Both India and France witnessed national elections. A change in government was also observed while the discussions were underway. Pricing was another major factor. Even during the final signing of the purchase agreement, in January, this year, both the sides couldn’t reach a conclusion on the financial aspects. According to the reports, the price of an aircraft is about Rs.740 crores. India wants them to possess them at least 20 percent lesser cost. Though the initial plan was to buy 126 jets, India has scaled it down to 36, that too in a ready state.
Importance of deal to both India and France
India: India took a brave move by choosing Dassault over its traditional partner Russia’s MiG. It could have led to disturbances in international relations. Thankfully, nothing of this sort happened. India also uncared U.S.’ Lockheed, at a time when India and U.S. were aiming for closer ties. Procurement of combat aircraft is long overdue and a necessity for the Indian Air Force. The further postponement will make things worse for the Indian Air Force. This deal is India’s biggest-ever procurement. It is an undeniable fact that in the effectiveness of the Rafale deal lies the future of other defense procurements.
France: Rafale jets are currently being used mostly by France, Egypt, and Qatar. Dassault Aviation is hoping that export of Rafale jets will help the company meet its revenue targets. India was the first country that agreed to buy a Rafale after it was used in Libyan airstrikes. If India inducts these jets in its military fold, other nations could express its willingness to buy Rafales. Thus, it has a direct relationship with the French economy. Therefore, it holds a lot of significance for an Indo-French relationship.
The latest update
The Congress alleged that a “huge scam is brewing” in the Rafale deal and accused the Modi government of “promoting the interests of Prime Minister’s crony capitalist friends”.
Congress communication Chief Randeep Surjewala said that the Modi government violated the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and bypassed the interests of PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Mr. Surjewala alleged that Prime Minister Modi’s visited France and announced the deal for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in disperse circumstance. He further commented that this action was done without following the DPP. There was no inter-governmental agreement. Moreover, India’s Defence Minister was not present there. Something shocking that he revealed was the presence of Mr. Anil Ambani, owner of Reliance Defence Limited. He was present in France during the Prime Minister’s visit.
Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence Limited, however, has described the allegations as “baseless” and “unfounded”. It asserted that Mr. Ambani was part of the PM’s delegation as a member of the Indo-French CEO Forum.
We hope that the Indian Air Force doesn’t have to wait for longer period of time. This deal was carried on for the nation. Politicising such acts which are actually important for state security is a matter of sheer disgrace. There is a difference between coming up with facts. We have come close to the ending of 2017 and still haven’t provided the IAF with what it deserves. This is a fight, which seems to be lost. National security cannot be compromised in the midst of mudslinging by the political parties. It is high time that importance of nation and its security is taken care of.