The decision by the “priest” of the “Made in India” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to finalize the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft built by French supplier Dassault Aviation has been rather unwelcome by both media and analysts in India. They actually didn’t question the qualities of the Rafale as a polyvalent advanced military aircraft. They just wondered why a country as large as India and currently equipped with ageing diverse fleet of so many different aircrafts finally didn’t choose to completely renew its Air Force. Initially India was likely to finalize the acquisition of 126 Rafale with 108 of them made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). With a hundred plus of such aircrafts, India would have dramatically increased its military capabilities, possibly exceeding those of its neighbors in the long term. Finally, Modi allegedly opted for a simple customer/supplier contract. According to Cyceon, several reasons may possibly explain the move.
Firstly, the state of the Indian air force’s current equipment is not as good as it should be considering India’s national security interests. That’s why India would need 36 Rafale within the next 2 or 3 years – an aircraft with war-time evidence of its state-of-the-art capabilities and relatively short delivery deadlines. Secondly, by signing this contract, the Indian government strengthened strategic relations with France, in perhaps a discreet attempt to diversify its foreign policy interests outside the less relevant BRICS. Thirdly, although 36 Rafale appear insufficient for a country like India, however it would be enough to keep India safe – mainly regarding Pakistan – during the time India could be planning a larger order and/or rethink its military posture for the 21st century. Beyond criticism, India armed with 36 Rafale will get the opportunity to think long-term without putting itself at unnecessary risk in these difficult times.