Bengaluru, Feb 16: The Union Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said on Monday that India would only accept best Rafales fighters, but refused to put a timeline as to when the deal would finally come out of the ‘foggy weather.'
To a specific question from OneIndia, posed on the sidelines of the inauguration of Aero India International Seminar (Aerospace: Vision 2020), at the NIMHANS Convention Centre in Bengaluru, the minister made it categorical that the government would insist on the full transfer of technology from Dassault, the makers of Rafale.
"We would like to have the 'same standard' of what is being produced in France," the minister said. He said efforts are on to thrash out the ‘pending concerns,' which according to him cannot be termed as ‘issues.' He refused to comment when asked whether one of the concerns were that of the ‘build standards' of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
As per the deal, first 18 Rafales would be built in France and the remaining 108 be produced in India. "There are no issues. When we make the aircraft at HAL they (Dassault) will have to be of the same standard manufactured by the OEM," the minister said.
He said the government was keen to give the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots best flying machines. "Our capability of assembling these fighters may not be as good as the OEM (Rafale). But they should help HAL bring out machines matching what they make in France," Singh said. He admitted that the OEMs exporting defence equipment to India, might not part with their best technology so easily.
He said there could be some price escalation, but refused to go into the details. "Not everything can be discussed in public," he said.
To another query whether Dassault is keen to undertake the India part of manufacturing the Rafales with another company (other than HAL), the minister said the DPSU has the expertise in making modern fighters.
"HAL will continue to be the strategic production line for the aircraft as inducting another company will be difficult," he said.
Favours early appointment of CDS
He said the the NDA government would speed up the appointment of joint Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who would take strategic decisions linked to all wings of Services. Singh said that the armed forces were in favour of the CDS appointment with the government keen to get a political consensus on the issue.
"We are in consultation with various political parties for some time now. We will be soon writing to all parties seeking their opinion. After we reach a consensus, we will take a call. It is immaterial whether the senior most among the Chiefs is made the CDS or not.
It could be on rotation or a permanent appointment," the minister said.
He said the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) is meeting on February 28 again to take up some of the pending matters. He did not comment on the Avro replacement project of the IAF, which is expected to come up in the DAC meeting.
To another query from OneIndia on the most awaited OROP (One Rank One Pension), promised by the NDA in its manifesto, the minister said that a decision should be taken before the next Parliament session.
A new-look DPP soon
Earlier, while participating in a panel discussion on Make in India, the minister said that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) is being given a fresh look in the wake of the new policies that have come to play.
During the course of the discussion, which was moderated by well-known defence expert Maroof Raza, the minister said that all suggestions from various stakeholders and industry are being taken into consideration.
When this Correspondent pointed out the general concern of the private industry (quoting the #MI2Watch Series on OneIndia), in doing business with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), due to their attitude and long-winding bureaucratic set up, Singh said that the new DPP would address most of the issues.
"We are working on the same, making it (DPP) more meaningful. It will be ready in the next couple of months," he told OneIndia.
Aero India International Seminar goes live
Earlier in the day, the 10th Aero India International Seminar, a three-day event, went live with over 75 expert papers, including from 18 foreign countries, expected to present their papers.
Dr S Christopher, Chairman of the Organising Committee and Director CABS said that around 30 foreign delegates and eight countries, including Spain, US, UK, Germany, Russia and France are participating in the seminar.
Meanwhile, 10 foreign ministers including from UK, Israel, Russia, UK, France and Germany are expected to land in Bengaluru for the air show.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)