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MMRCA deal may be renegotiated through G2G route: Ex-IAF chief

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MUMBAI (PTI): Welcoming the government's decision to buy 36 Rafale planes, former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief P V Naik on Tuesday said India should not throw the deal for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) into the trash and renegotiate it through Government-to- Government (G2G) route.

"I don't think the (MMRCA) deal is dead. The deal will probably be renegotiated, on a Government-to-Government basis if the price is right," the retired Air Chief Marshal told PTI in an interview.

It was during Naik's tenure as IAF chief that India shortlisted Rafale jet and Eurofighter Typhoon in July 2010 after French firm Dassault Aviation emerged as the lowest bidder. The price negotiations by Ministry of Defence then showed Rafale emerge as the lowest bidder (L1).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to France, announced India would buy 36 Rafale planes from Dassault in fly-away condition through G2G route.

"First of all, purchase of the 36 aircraft outright is a good thing. This is a positive step. The deal will be renegotiated on a G2G basis, like we have been doing with the US so far. We haven't done a G2G deal with any other country," Naik said.

"Don't throw it (MMRCA deal) into the trash," he said, adding this means, whatever price that (French) air force gets at, you (India) will also get it at the same price.

"They say the 36 aircraft will come (to India) in two years. If that happens, it is a good thing. After signing the contract, it takes minimum three years. Probably, we might gain a year or so," the former IAF chief said.

He said people should not get worried about the deal. "You will get the number of aircraft needed."

Asked what more does the Indian Government need to do to expedite the MMRCA deal, Naik said, "They will have to sit here at the ministry level, approve of the G2G deal.

"I am not aware what transpired during the (Indo-French) discussions. If they have agreed to G2G, then there will be several other items on the basket," the former Air Chief Marshal said.

To a query on his views on the status of overall defence procurement for IAF, he said, "it (procurement) is lagging.

"This (MMRCA) is the biggest deal. It has been in the works for several years. Other things are on track, like additional AWACs, indigenisation and refuelling aircraft."

Drawing the analogy that one car cannot travel on two roads at the same time, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar indicated yesterday the USD 20 billion MMRCA tender may be scrapped.


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