NEW DELHI, Sept 13 - The negotiations for procurement of 126 Rafale jets under the UPA government fell through as state-run HAL did not have the required capability to produce the jets in India in collaboration with French company Dassault Aviation, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.
Sitharaman also said that an unprecedented intervention in 2013 by then Defence Minister AK Antony when the cost negotiation committee was giving final touches to the deal put the final nail in the coffin.
After rounds of negotiations with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Dassault Aviation felt that the cost of the Rafale jets will escalate significantly if they were to be produced in India, she said during an interaction with PTI editors and reporters at the agency’s headquarters here.
“Dassault could not progress in the negotiations with HAL because if the aircraft were to be produced in India, a guarantee for the product to be produced was to be given. It is a big ticket item and the IAF would want the guarantee for the jets. HAL was in no position to give the guarantee,” she said.
Sitharaman said the weapon systems, avionics and other key add-ons to the Rafale aircraft, expected to be delivered beginning September 2019, will be “much superior” than that negotiated by the UPA, and her government is getting the planes for 9 per cent cheaper than what was earlier agreed upon.
The previous UPA government started negotiating in 2012 with French Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
The plan was for Dassault Aviation to supply 18 Rafale jets in fly-away condition while 108 aircraft were to be manufactured in India by the company along with HAL. However the deal could not be sealed.
The Congress has demanded answers from the government on why HAL was not involved in the new deal.
Sitharaman said the UPA deal collapsed as HAL did not have the capability to produce 108 aircraft in India.
“Even during negotiation with HAL, Dassault felt that the cost with which the HAL will produce will be far higher than the aircraft produced in France. That was the reality,” she said.
The Defence Minister said the then government could have come forward and pumped in resources into HAL, but they did not. – PTI