India has a hectic diplomatic calendar next week with a series of high-profile visits scheduled. French Defence Minister Florance Parley will be in New Delhi on an official visit during which she is likely to make a strong pitch to sell additional Rafale fighter jets.
Ms. Parley is scheduled to visit India from October 26.
“The two sides will discuss the progress of the implementation of the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets,” one official said. The issue of additional Rafale jets and the Navy’s mega tender for a new line of submarines are likely to come up for discussion, the official added.
“Ms. Parley will travel to Nagpur on October 27 to lay the foundation stone for a manufacturing facility being set up by Dassault and Reliance Defence as part of the offsets under the Rafale deal,” another official said.
In September last year, India and France concluded a €7.87-billion government-to-government deal for 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition scheduled to be delivered between 2019 and 2022. The deal has a 50% offset clause to be executed by Dassault and its partners in India amounting up to ₹30,000 crore.
Following this, Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence announced a joint venture called “Dassault Reliance Aerospace”, which is likely to execute a major part of the offsets.
The Indian Air Force has stated its requirement for additional twin-engine fighter jets and has expressed its desire for more Rafale jets. However, with a depleting fighter strength and several squadrons of MiG-21s and MiG-27s to be phased out, the focus is now on procuring a single-engine fighter jet under the newly promulgated Strategic Partnership model. “Single engine is a priority … Right now, we are trying to make up numbers with single-engine aircraft …,” Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said earlier this month in response to questions on the IAF’s procurement plans.
The IAF is operating 32 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42, which is set to drop further in the coming years.
One officer said the IAF would like to have additional Rafale jets. “The resources are limited and we need to prioritise,” he added.