Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on Monday, announced that India is closing in on a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France's Dassault. The announcement reportedly follows months of negotiations over the price of the fighter jets and terms of the sale.
French President Francois Hollande will visit India later this month as a special guest of honour for the Republic Day Parade to be held on 26 January. The two countries are expected to seal the military deal just before Hollande's arrival or during his visit, Reuters said.
The defence minster, on Monday, said, "It's (the deal) closer to completion." According to reports, the Defence Ministry had originally cleared the military deal to procure $12 billion-worth 126 Rafale jets. However, due to disagreement over unit price and local assembly of the aircraft, the number of fighter jets to be bought was reduced to 36 last year.
The Indian Air Force is trying to "replace its ageing squadrons" in a bid to combat threat from China and Pakistan.
Under the new military deal, the fighter jets would be "bought off the shelf", Reuters added.
"The procedure is going on," Parrikar said.
In October, Air Force Chief Air Marshal Arup Raha had said the two squadrons of 18 Rafael jets each might not be enough, and IAF might require six squadrons of Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).
"Definitely, we would like have MMRCA variety of aircraft. At least about six squadrons to my mind. Let us see, there might be some alternatives as well," Raha had said while addressing a press conference before Air Force Day on 8 October, Press Trust of India reported.
France-based Dassault Aviation has provided more than 8,000 military and civil aircraft to 90 countries. The company has been providing aircraft to the Indian Air Force for 60 years now, according to the company's website.