Has India finalised its deal for 36 Rafale fighters at a contract value of $8.8 billion? The MoD was quick to advise a couple of recent media reports not to 'jump the gun' that a deal had finally been reached -- and no official comment is out yet on the deal. But the ruling party of India's government, the BJP, posted the image on the left a few hours ago on its official Facebook page
This is perplexing at several levels. For starters, the infographic explicitly mentions that the deal has been 'finalised', something the MoD refuted only 72 hours ago. The message also looks to address continuing concerns that the Rafale deal was too heavy to handle -- the BJP says here that the Modi government has successfully 're-negotiated' the deal and saved an estimated $3.2 billion, bringing the contract value down from an earlier $12 billion.
Probably most strange of all, it is unclear where the $12 billion for 36 Rafale jets equation comes from. It is well known that the original M-MRCA, for 126 fighters, carried a prospective price tag of about $12 billion. So is the BJP forking out erroneous figures to illustrate a humdinger of a bargain? Again, unclear.
Right off the bat, that's Prime Minister Modi's photograph up there on the image. The message is simple: it was the Prime Minister (and his visit to France in April last year) who saved a deal that was in a doomed spiral of cost. The credit, the BJP is saying here, goes to the PM who ensured India got a tight deal even after scaling down the jet requirement from 126 to a measly couple of squadrons, 36 aircraft. It was leadership that saw the deal done -- that's the clear message from the BJP here, not the endless bureaucrat-led negotiations, not the multiple levels of international intrigue and instances of delegations flinging rules and books at each other, not about brinkmanship in numbers. Just cold, hard leadership. We'll only know how true that is once we get the details.
The MoD hasn't officially commented on the BJP post, except to say that a public announcement will be made when "there's something to announce". In the social media age, it's easy to imagine a political party's digital wing putting out information of this kind. It isn't however, when you consider that the BJP's own digital wing is comprised of a highly professional and networked team that rarely puts out material that isn't vetted at the highest levels of party (and government when it concerns public policy, deals etc). Finally, is the BJP referring to unconfirrmed reports that popped up a few days ago about the Rafale deal being finalised -- or were they simply given the go-ahead to break the news ahead a slightly mystified MoD. Answers ahead, surely.
The Rafale deal has had a turbulent ride in India. So, right now it's about waiting to see if the MoD feels the party that rules India's government has 'jumped the gun'.