|Shiv Aroor before Rafale flight | Photo / Arpit Agarwal|
Indian government leaders informed visiting French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian yesterday that M-MRCA contract negotiations for the Dassault Rafale were progressing well, and that there was no cause for worry since the process was in its “final stage”, sources say. This was in response to the French minister enquiring about perceived and reported delays in the process.
Both sides are hopeful of a contract signature before March 2014.
As recently as April this year, the IAF had expressed some consternation to the MoD on the potential for delays in a contract signature, listing factors that could contribute. This was an off-the-books discussion held between the offices of the Deputy Chief of Air Staff and the Defence Secretary (the man who’s now India’s national auditor). Sources familiar with the discussion shared with the Livefist the following points from it (unedited):
- CAS (Chief of Air Staff) had quoted expectations over all negotiations/paperwork for programme to be completed by Apr/May 13. Current status shows major heads unresolved.
- Several issues of delay under major heads. (Transfer of technology, workshare, offset commitments and contractual matters)
- Environment for contract becoming less optimal as political environment moves towards elections at states and centre.
- Max. of 12 months left for General Elections, or 10 months before Code of Conduct is activated. Time to complete procedures short and decreasing.
- Vested interests floating harmful speculations. Being taken up by press, both print and electronic.
- Political leaders may raise questions or objections as in the past with programme.
- Motivated reports about certain “back-up plans” need to be addressed. Message must be sent that IAF enjoys no back-up plan at this time.
- Sqn strength at 34 (Offl sanctioned 42, and optimal strength is 39). Depletion already occuring, and will continue in case asset accrual does not take place on schedule.
Since April, things have progressed well, and as the IAF clarified on more than one occasion, things have indeed progressed substantively.