It took India over a decade to choose the Rafale and ink the deal. The final purchase, however, was for only one-fourth of what the Indian Air Force (IAF) wanted. This was particularly troubling for two reasons: first, the IAF was shortchanged since it wanted 126 fighters but only got 36; and secondly, the French were hoping that India would do what it always does and place a follow-on order. The latter was particularly important since after 15-odd years of haggling, the expectation was that a truly big contract would follow. In fact, by the time the Rafale contract was signed, there was some discussion that if India did buy at least a small number of aircraft it would be considered a nonserious player in weapons acquisition and there was talk of “India fatigue”. Now, the IAF wants 114 fighters and once again there is competition to select the plane. At the same time, the IAF talks about it has to counter a two-front threat and, therefore, needs a plane, in sufficient numbers, quickly. So, India has to choose wisely and quickly.
Learning from the Rafale
The Rafale deal became controversial because the media and the political opposition made it into an election issue with questions being raised about the alleged irregularities in the process. Further, the argument was made that because HAL was not given a contract to domestically assemble the aircraft, there was something insidious about the deal.
What is forgotten in all this