India may review the process of arriving at the lowest bidder in the MMRCA fighter contest which could open the door for Eurofighter to re-enter the competition.
Media reports today said that Indian defence minister AK Antony had recently ordered the process to arrive at the lowest bidder in the multi-vendor tender be reviewed after completion of the whole procedure as questions had been raised over it and the minister had taken cognizance of ‘concerns’. However, independent confirmation of this ‘recent order’ could not be made.
There is a lack of clarity in the reports about why the selection process be reviewed after ‘completion’. Does completion mean successful conclusion of negotiations with Rafale? In which case where is the need for a review of the selection process.
However, indications received from various sources say that the negotiations with the lowest bidder Dassault, now into their third year, have been dragging precisely over the issue of cost- life-cycle, outright price and offsets. In that case the question which comes to mind is on what basis was Dassault declared as the lowest bidder.
If the Indian government goes ahead with the review it could turn the entire procurement scenario upside down depending on the results of the examination. If the total cost as quoted by Rafale turns out higher than that of the Eurofighter, it may be forced to invite the European consortium for negotiations.
France is reported to be pressing for a government guarantee to the negotiations which the Indian side has refused on grounds that the process to select a new government has begun and any such decision will have to be taken by the next government.
Antony or the next defence minister will have a lot of questions to answer on the MMRCA selection when the Indian Parliament resumes after the general elections in May.
Defenseworld.net had earlier reported quoting unnamed sources that that the MoD “should have conducted parallel negotiations with the L1 and L2 (Eurofighter) to speed up the final selection. Parallel negotiations on precisely those aspects which are hindering the deal now, would have ensured that the IAF got a better deal in the final analysis”.