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Rafale Deal: A Game Changer for India

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As a part of the $100 billion upgrade of its Soviet era military hardware, an Inter-Governmental Agreement has been signed between India and France for 36 Rafale multirole fighter jets for $7.87 billion dollars. These fighter jets are being manufactured by a France Company “Dassault Aviation”. Initially, many bids have come up such as MIG-35, Lockheed’s Martin F-16s, Eurofighter Typhoon, Sweden’s Saab’s Gripen and Rafale. After crucial analysis and tests, Rafale had bagged the bid by quoting the lowest bid for providing 126 Fighter Jets for $10.5 billion dollars. But Last year when the Prime Minister visited France, he announced that a government-to-government contract would come into force for 36 Rafale Fighter Jets soon after which he scrapped the process, in which negotiations were going on with the Dassault Aviation to purchase 126 Fighter Jets.

What exactly are Rafale Aircrafts?

Rafale aircrafts are known as “Omnirole aircrafts” which are capable of performing a wide range combat roles such as Air Supremacy, Aerial Reconnaissance, Ground Support, Interdiction, In-Depth Strike, Anti Ship strike and Nuclear Deterrence. These Rafale Jets are equipped with the Meteor design, an Air-to-Air Missile with a range of 150 km and Air-to-Ground range of 300 km, which can knock out of the other enemy aircrafts and cruise missiles. India will be the first country in South Asia where this class of aircrafts is used. Neither China nor Pakistan has this class of aircrafts in their military. After a hard bargain for about 17 months, this deal has been signed between India and France.

During the negotiations by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, France agreed on a “fifty percent” offset clause. Due to this, thousands of jobs are created in India and 3 billion Euros business is given to both big and small companies.

The signing of this deal has come as a breather for the Indian Air Force, which has been grappling with dwindling fighter strength.

A question arises as to why the Indian Government has made a deal for 36 fighter jets, which creates logistical and operational complications and thrusts up the overall cost for reasons of economies of scale when it has gotten a deal for $10.5 billion for 126 fighter jets. This projects that the government is probably scouting for fighter jets, which are manufactured in India under the Make in India initiative to be inducted in large numbers.

Early this year, there has been a leak of detailed information in regard to stealth Submarines, which are being manufactured by France military manufacturer DCNS after a newspaper in Australia, “The Australian”; claimed that it had access to over more than 22,000 pages of the information report on the Submarine. The pages, which have been leaked, contained technical literature, manuals, presentations and specifications on the Scorpene submarine project, which means the entire combat capability of the six Scorpene Class Submarines that they have designed for the Indian Navy. Though there is no authenticated report as to from which country the information is stolen or leaked, it is believed that it has been from the side of France as the information, which has been leaked, also contains deals that are not related to India. At the face value, this leak hits a major nerve as it compromises the security, which the supposed stealth submarines have to provide as they being the Indian’s most modern stealthy weapon.

There has been a discussion as to whether this leak affects the Rafale deal or not, which at that time is still in the process of negotiations. As per the Defense Minister Parrikar, he questioned whether one can stop using French products just because a leak has happened in another country. According to him “the companies are different, the type of equipment used is different and also said that the information is not leaked intentionally.”

Therefore, it doesn’t affect the Rafale deal. Given the technological sophistication and the long range, the Rafales are expected to play a lead role as nuclear delivery platforms in India’s second-strike capability, replacing the Mirage 2000 fighters.

Closing of the deal was very important to India as it is facing depleting fighter strength in the Indian Air Force and if the deal is not closed then China and Pakistan are likely to have more strength than India which could be dangerous.

Recent attacks on the Line of Control, which have caused significant causalities are a pointer to this effect that more attacks could be in line.

The Global Times article, titled “Asia arms imports on the rise as India buys new jets”, is an indication that both the government and strategic circles in China ,even if they were surprised at the Indian operations, – are keeping a close watch on the developments in the region, especially the escalating tension between India and Pakistan. The above reasons indicate the need for an increase in the Fighter strength. It also shows that by signing the deal of 36 Rafale Fighter Jets with France, India has taken a correct decision without letting the Submarine leak issue coming in between the negotiations of this Rafale deal.

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