The Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) is nothing if not completely confused about just how to handle the aftermath of the instantaneous decision by PM Modi in Paris to buy 36 Rafales for the spurious MMRCA slot. Assuming the PM’s word is taken as a firm commitment, then the country will be paying a whole lot of monies for very few aircraft, especially if as Parrikar has said, perhaps reflecting the roiled thinking in MOD and PMO — that there simply are not enough funds to buy more Rafales off the shelf nor to even go in for ToT. In this situation, it’d be reasonable to assume that Modi will have to back down, and tell Paris, er, sorry, but I misspoke! And for GOI to begin thinking entirely anew on the topic of augmenting fighter squadron strength fast.
This conclusion is derived from a couple of developments. (1) The Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist is in town, with a virtually single point agenda that Stockholm has been encouraged to if not push than at least air in Delhi. Sweden wants India to offtake the Gripen NG (new generation), flight control laws, source codes, advanced production technology and all, and the rpoduction house of Modi’s choice — HAL, pvt, the whole shabang package for nearly as much money as Delhi is willing to pay for the 36 Rafales, about $8 billion! And (2) in parallel, an IAF-MOD team is revealed by Russia & India Report, a Russian news outlet and hence credible about happenings at the Moscow end, in its story datelined June 2, as negotiating for joint production of the Su-35 (http://in.rbth.com/economics/2015/06/02/india-russia_move_towards_co-production_of_defence_equipment_43451.html ). [Amending: I mentioned wrongly that the Su-35 combat aircraft is what the Strategic Forces Command had asked for as the manned bomber leg of the nuclear triad, a request turned down by the Manmohan Singh regime. It was, of course, the Su-34. Too many ac numerals floating around in my head!]
The Eurofighter option has not gained traction despite very determined canvassing efforts by Berlin and London, because it is just as expensive as the Rafale, but with many more operational kinks to resolve.
Could these developments suggest that Parrikar and Modi are using the Rafale buy as leverage to soften up Sweden and Russia for better terms on the Gripen NG tech for incorporating into Tejas Mk-II and fast-tracking its production with Swedish help from Saab, the Gripen maker, and Moscow re: the Su-35 as the IAF’s main combat platform, especially if this is conjoined to Moscow’s promise to upgrade all Su-30 MKI engines to Sukhoi-PAK/FA engine standard? But all this is affordable only if Delhi finally and irrevocably trashes the Rafale.