A day after the BJP announced on social media that the Rafale fighter deal has been finalised, defence minister Manohar Parrikar clarified on Thursday that the multi-billion dollar contract was in an advanced stage and the government hoped to clinch it soon.
“I can’t say that negotiations are totally cleared until we sign the deal, or at least until the deal is forwarded to the cabinet for approval,” the minister told journalists on the sidelines of a top naval conference.
The BJP announced on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday that the Rafale deal had been “re-negotiated and finalised at $8.8 billion (around Rs 59,000 crore)”. The BJP posts – in the form of a graphic titled ‘Strengthening defence capabilities while saving public money’ – claimed that the Narendra Modi government had saved the country $3.2 billion (Rs 21,000 crore) by re-negotiating the deal for 36 French-made warplanes.
Tweet posted by BJP Twitter handle on Wednesday
Rafale deal: 'Strengthening defence capabilities'- Modi government saved $3.2 billion out of $12 billion deal. pic.twitter.com/0wXuSBzb2l— BJP (@BJP4India) April 19, 2016
Parrikar said in a lighter vein that the BJP’s posts only serve to illustrate how journalists write stories very convincingly, hinting that the party may have based the graphic on media reports.
Ongoing negotiations with France have helped lower the price of Rafale fighter planes, and a deal could be hammered out by May or June. Government sources said the effort was to bring the price down to around 8 billion euros (Rs 58,400 crore) from the 12 billion euros initially sought by France.
The two countries signed an MoU for the proposed deal on January 25, during French president Francois Hollande’s visit. However, both the sides said that sorting out details such as pricing and post-sales servicing would take more time.
Commercial negotiations for the deal began on January 21.
The two sides will sign an inter-governmental agreement after cost issues are resolved. The pact will require legal vetting and clearance from the cabinet committee on security.