- French defence minister wrote to Nirmala Sitharaman last month
- She wanted talks for more Rafales to be announced during Macron's visit
- Government sources say talks likely after first Rafales arrive next year
This was, however, not announced in the joint statement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in New Delhi on Saturday and it's unclear at what stage the talks presently lie.
In her letter to Ms Sitharaman, Florence Parly wrote, "As written by the President of the French Republic to the Prime Minister of India on 25th October 2017, we would like to initiate discussions on the proposal of providing an additional thirty-six aircraft to the Indian Air Force, with a very significant share of Make in India." Ms Parly added, "A message to this effect during the visit would be particularly appreciated."
Senior sources in the Ministry of Defence Ministry whom NDTV spoke to in the days prior to the visit of the French President have said that while New Delhi has not ruled out a further acquisition of Rafale fighters, there is no immediate decision likely till the first tranche of Rafales, which are already on order, start arriving in 2019. These jets were ordered in 2016 in a controversial Rs 58,000-crore government-to-government deal between India and France.
The acquisition of Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force has been one of the most controversial defence deals every signed by India. In a statement yesterday, the Congress party claimed that the Rafale tender had resulted in ''a staggering loss of Rs 12,632 crore'' since ''India is clearly paying an extra price of Rs 350.90 crore per aircraft'' compared to what Qatar and Egypt are paying for jets they have ordered from Dassault, the manufacturer of the Rafale. These claims have been vociferously countered in the past with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently telling reporters, "Don't compare it (the Rafale deal) with Bofors. There is no scam here."