France and India have been trying to ink the deal since 2012, with New Delhi becoming increasingly frustrated with its European partner. India wants Dassault Aviation to stick to the original terms of the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract. At the moment its cost has doubled.
The two countries have also been deadlocked over the licensed production of the fighter jets. According to the initial terms, France was to supply 18 Rafale fighters, while India would produce 108 aircraft at a Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) facility under a technology transfer agreement. Later Dassault refused to take responsibility for the warplanes produced at HAL.
India’s frustration must have also been exacerbated when France refused to deliver two Mistral-class helicopter carriers built for the Russian Navy. The French stance on the Mistral deal might have contributed to India’s decision to seek other partners as the country is upgrading its military equipment.
Earlier this week, the deputy head of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Sergei Goreslavsky, confirmed that Russia was ready to supply India with additional Su-30MKIs. However, France is not giving up just yet. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Drian will visit New Delhi in the coming days in an attempt to save the deal.
The fate of the agreement is expected to be sealed in March before the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to France. The collapse of the negotiations would be an embarrassment for the French government, AFP news agency noted.
Both warplanes are currently exhibited at the Aero India 2015 air show in Bangalore. The fact that Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets have been manufactured in India since 2000 gives the Russian-designed aircraft an advantage. Moreover, Su-30MKIs are cheaper and more reliable, according to Indian Minister for External Affairs in the North Eastern Region Vijay Kumar Singh.
Years-long successful military cooperation between Russia and India is also a factor. For instance, Russia and India are slated to sign a contract for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) based on the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA fighter jet.