NEW DELHI, June 3 India expects to seal a close
to $20 billion deal to buy 126 fighter jets from France's
Dassault Aviation within three months, a newspaper
reported on Tuesday, as part of a $100 billion defence
Completion of the deal would mean the first 18 Rafale jets
arriving from mid-2016, with manufacture of the remaining 108
beginning in India in 2018, the Times of India said, citing
defence ministry sources.
New Delhi had picked the Rafale fighters for exclusive
negotiations in January 2012, but a plan to finalise the deal by
March this year was postponed after India's military exhausted
its capital budget.
A defence ministry official said the new government had just
moved into position and it was too early to talk about wrapping
up the jet fighter negotiations.
"The report is speculative, the defence minister has not
applied his mind to the issue as yet. He is busy with budget
meetings," the official said.
Dassault declined to comment.
India, the world's biggest arms importer, is in the midst of
a $100 billion defence modernisation programme to replace
Soviet-era planes and tanks, and narrow the gap with China, with
which it fought a war in 1962.
But the upgrade programme moved slowly under the last
government, partly because of the then-defence minister's
insistence on transparency and integrity in defence procurement,
long dogged by allegations of kickbacks.
Newly-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to boost
domestic defence manufacturing and cut imports. Finance Minister
Arun Jaitley, also in charge of defence, is studying proposals
to allow more foreign direct investment in the sector.
Technical negotiations on the Rafale order were concluded in
March and financial talks are under way. The company has said
previously that it hopes to sign a deal by the end of the year.
(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani and Cyril Altmeyerhenzien;
Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Douglas Busvine)