French Rafale-M emerges front runner for Navy’s fighter jet deal
France’s Rafale-M appears to have outbid America’s F/A-18 Super Hornet to bag the Indian Navy’s multi-million dollar deal to supply fighter jets.
Government sources said the talks are in their final stages as the prime minister’s office and defence ministry are in contact with French embassy representatives and with the French President Emmanuel Macron regime in Paris to give shape to the deal for 26 fighter jets.
It has been learned that France also wants the deal to go through with a formal announcement when President Macron visits India. French media is also said to have reported that the Indian Navy has given its nod to Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M, which will have to be onboard aircraft carriers INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya.
After the trial of Rafale-M and F/A-18 Super Hornet at INS Hansa in Goa early last year, the Navy is said to have given its report to the Ministry of Defence last month.
If the government decides to go ahead with Rafale-M, it will bring compatibility since the Indian Air Force also operates Dassault Aviation jets. Apart from the Navy’s requirement that would have weighed down, for diplomatic and strategic reasons too, France has emerged as India’s true ally, shadowing bilateral relations with Russia. The Macron regime is not only rooting for India at the UN but also helped at the time of the Galwan face-off with China in May 2020 when armed forces were running around for arms and spares with Russian forces bogged down in battle with Ukraine, said government sources.
The issue is also believed to have come up during the 36th strategic dialogue between the two countries on Thursday. The Indian delegation was led by NSA Ajit Doval, while the French were led by President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic advisor, Emmanuel Bonne. The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs , however, did not mention about it during the official briefing on Thursday about the outcome of dialogue.
India and France held discussions on various issues, including the current global security situation in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, regional security in the context of Afghanistan, and cyber security, the spokesperson pointed out. Bonne met with EAM S Jaishankar and will call on PM Narendra Modi, he added.