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India to accomplish Rafale jet deal in 2014/15 fiscal year, says Defence Minister

020614-defSTORY: India’s Defence Minister, Arackaparambil Kurien Antony, said on Thursday (February 06) it is only likely to complete a $15 billion deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to buy 126 fighter jets in the next fiscal year.

In January, France’s defence ministry said that the government was committing to a further phase of the Rafale fighter jet project and that about one billion euros was being earmarked.

The jet is made primarily by French group Dassault but also involves groups such as Thales and Safran, the ministry said.

Addressing the Defence Sector Trade Fair in New Delhi, Antony said the process will be completed next year due to financial constrains.

“Negotiation is going on because of the shortage of money this financial year don’t expect any final decision on the agreement. Next year, I think process will continue. Next financial year, I hope that the process will be able to complete,” said Antony.

Antony also said that major procurement could only be possible in the next financial year.

As of February 01, Antony said, the country has already spent 92 percent of its defence capital budget for the current fiscal year that ends in March.

“This year also, now it is only first week of February, we have already spent 92 percent of our capital budget. Only eight percent is left out for the two months. Out of committed expenditure many new procurement proposals are in the pipeline,” Antony also said.

Dassault Aviation’s chief executive Eric Trappier said in December that he was optimistic about finalising the fighter jet deal within a few months, though he was unsure whether it would be sealed before or after the national elections in India, which must completed by May.

Commenting on the ceasefire violations on India’s de-facto border with Pakistan, Antony said the Indian army is was vigilant enough and well equipped to combat any situation.

“At the moment, violations are less. But we cannot say that this will continue for a long time because the test will come in summer only. But our army, our armed forces are ever vigilant,” Antony added.

Tensions have been prevailing between the two nations after regular violations of 2003 ceasefire agreement by Pakistan in Kashmir since August last year.

The nuclear-armed rivals have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

Both control a part of the Muslim-majority region but claim it in full.

The Kashmir region has witnessed numerous militant attacks, insurgency and infiltration attempts from across the border in the last two decades.

The Himalayan region is one of the world’s most militarised zones, with India deploying more than 1.3 million troops to quell the rebellion that triggered off in 1989.

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