NEW DELHI: India’s defence minister ruled out Thursday any prospect of a deal to buy fighter jets from France’s Dassault Aviation before national elections — expected by May — due to budgetary constraints.
The announcement eliminates any chance of the current government concluding its biggest defence procurement project and means the French firm faces new uncertainty in its most promising export market.
“Because of shortage of money don’t expect this (financial) year any final decision or agreement,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters in New Delhi at a press conference.
The financial year runs until the end of March, but elections are then expected shortly afterwards when Antony’s ruling Congress party is expected to be voted out of power.
India chose privately-owned Dassault in January 2012 for exclusive negotiations for 126 fighter jets — worth $12 billion — but successive deadlines to complete one of the world’s biggest defence contracts have slipped by.
In October, Air Marshal S. Sukumar, deputy chief of air staff, was reported to have said that the deal would be signed within the current financial year.
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