The defence minister indicated on Monday a $25-billion Indian tender for buying 126 advanced combat aircraft had virtually been scrapped, with New Delhi stressing any future deal for Rafale fighter jets would be through direct negotiations with the French government.
The move comes two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India would buy 36 Rafale planes from France in fly-away condition through the government-to-government (G2G) route, reflecting a sense of urgency to buttress the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s depleting fleet.
India picked Rafale jets over Eurofighter Typhoons in January 2012 after French firm Dassault Aviation emerged as the lowest bidder for the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender for 126 planes.
But New Delhi may no longer go in for 126 planes and could reassess its requirements in the new scenario. As of now, the government appears to be keeping its options open to buy more fighters – it could turn to France or another foreign vendor.