Source : The Hindu
India’s decision to select Dassault Aviation of France to supply 126 Rafale multi-role fighters caps a process that began in 2007 to replace the Indian Air Force’s ageing MiG-21s and augment its fleet of Sukhoi 30MKIs. Given the size of the contract — which, at upwards of $10 billion, is the largest defence deal struck by India — the acquisition of the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) was viewed in many quarters as a purchase in which political and strategic considerations would, or even should, play a role. Such a view was bolstered by the fact that each of the six competing aircraft originally short-listed had a lot to offer, the differences between them lying more along the perimeter than in the core.
That technical and commercial factors prevailed over extra-contractual considerations became evident when the competition, following a slew of technical tests, was narrowed to two — the Rafale and the Typhoon, produced by a consortium of four European countries. Clearly, the selection process was uninfluenced by the United States administration, which had lobbied hard in favour of Boeing’s F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin’s F-16, suggesting that the acquisition of either was an important element in forging a closer strategic relationship. The rejection of the U.S.-manufactured aircraft underlined that we had, as one commentator wryly but wrongly noted, “settled for a plane, not a relationship.”