India, France ink 7.87-billion Euro deal for 36 Rafale fighter jet planes

The delivery of the jet planes will start in 36 months and will be completed in 66 months from the date the contract is inked. Photograph:( Getty )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Sep 23, 2016, 08.09 AM (IST)
India inked a 7.8 billion Euro ($8.7 billion) deal with France today to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, in what is being viewed as country's first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades.

France's defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian inked the agreement with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi. 

"You can only ever be completely sure once (the deal) has been signed and that's what happened today," Le Drian was quoted as saying by AFP after the ceremony, referring to almost 18 months of wrangling over financial terms between New Delhi and Dassault Aviation, the jet's manufacturer.

The deal is likely to give a boost to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to rebuild an ageing fleet of Indian Airforce (IAF). 

The IAF is down to 33 squadrons, against its requirement of 45 to face both China and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, international news agency Reuters observed. 

Meanwhile, the deal was also hailed by French President Francois Hollande as recognition of France`s aviation industry. 

"The agreement... is a mark of the recognition by a major military power of the operational performance, the technical quality and the competitiveness of the French aviation industry," he said in a statement, according to AFP. 

The French jet manufacturer, as per the news agency, had long struggled to find buyers overseas, despite heavy lobbying efforts by the President's administration.

One of the biggest defence deals in decades, the agreeement comes with a saving of nearly 750 million Euros, following hard negotiations by the Indian side, Indian news agency PTI reported. 

Mooted by the former United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2012, the deal was earlier scrapped by the Narendra Modi government, besides a 50 per cent offset clause, PTI reports. 

The 50 per cent offset clause means that Indian businesses, both big and small, will gain work to the tune of over three billion Euros. 

(WION with inputs from agencies)