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Deadlock on Rafale broken, DAC approves further talks

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NEW DELHI (PTI): The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Tuesday gave the go ahead for further negotiations to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France talks for which had got stalled, reviving hopes of the deal going through.

The Defence Ministry's top acquisition council, which met in New Delhi Tuesday evening under the chairmanship of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, also cleared a Rs 6,966 crore deal for the purchase of 48 Mi17-V5 helicopters from Russia. The hardy, medium-lift choppers have been a huge asset for the Air Force.

Approval was also granted for the purchase of seven additional squadrons of Akash missiles for the Air Force and eight Chetak helicopters for the Navy.

However, the DAC did not take a decision on the Navy's proposal to acquire over 100 utility helicopters. Neither did it take a decision on going ahead with the P75-I submarine tenders worth over Rs 60,000 crore.

"The negotiating committee apprised the DAC about the progress made so far. The DAC asked it to go ahead and proceed," defence ministry sources said about what transpired at the meeting with regard to Rafale aircraft.

Defence sources said this means that the deadlock has been broken. India's insistence on 50 per cent off-set clause, tweaking of weaponry technology and plans to set up two bases for Rafale fighter jets were some of the issues which had cropped up during the recent talks that began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to acquire 36 Rafales during his trip to France in April.

If things proceed smoothly, a government-to-government agreement between India and France could be signed soon, paving the way for the final contract for the purchase of the fighter jets.

Meanwhile, the trip of French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was expected to arrive on Tuesday night, has been delayed. Though Defence Ministry officials were tight-lipped about the reason for deferment of the visit, sources said he would arrive soon.
The DAC cleared a Rs 490 crore proposal for the Army to acquire 102 short-span bridges that would be carried on 8X8- wheel trucks besides 120 pieces of anti-tank mine trawls from Russia for the T-72 and T-90 tanks.

The future acquisition of these items would be from Indian companies, defence sources said.
The top body for defence acquisitions also cleared IAF's proposal to set up four new ATC radars at Rs 228 crore. Three of these radars would be based in the crucial eastern sector, the sources said.

Further, purchase of an additional seven squadrons of Akash missiles worth Rs 4,790 crore was cleared for Air Force.

The Navy's proposal to acquire eight Chetak helicopters from state-run HAL, too, was cleared. The force also got clearance for nine tugs at Rs 300 crore. Go-ahead was also given to Navy for dockyard repair facility for radars and Electronic Warfare System at Rs 235 crore.

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