France has admitted that India may not purchase Rafale fighter jets from the former. A senior French official, who wished to remain anonymous, recently said that India might scrap the Rafale deal due to sharp differences between New Delhi and Paris over the price.

After six years of tough negotiations with India, France said that it was not ready to accept New Delhi’s demand for enforceable guarantees regarding the fighter’s delivery, performance and availability. “If some people in the Indian Ministry of Defence do not want to allow the Rafale deal to go through, so be it. We are currently building it for Egypt and Qatar, and we could have another customer in Malaysia,” the French official told the press.

The official further said that the US’ repeated offers to build an assembly line to manufacture the American F-16 Super Viper in the South Asian country irritated France. “If you don’t want the Rafale, go ahead and build the F-16 here. You can build it in India and supply it to Pakistan also,” he taunted, referring to Washington’s decision to supply eight advanced Block 50/52 F-16 fighter jets, worth USD 699 million, to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the official rejected the claim that India scrapped the Rafale deal because of France’s decision to supply submarines to Pakistan, saying: “That is different. Pakistan is getting a different submarine from what we are providing to India.” He stressed that France had planned to supply six Scorpenes submarines to India and three advanced Agosta-90B submarines with air independent propulsion to neighbouring Pakistan.

According to the official, India’s hesitation in finalising the Rafale deal will not be a big blow to France. “The Rafale project is commercially viable based on the numbers that the French military requires, even if there is not a single export order. The government of France is standing behind the sale. Surely, India is not asking for a bank guarantee when it has the word of the French government?” asked the official.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]