Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist will be visiting India from June 9 to June 12, and it is likely that discussions between him and defence minister Manohar Parrikar will include the possibility of India re-looking at Saab’s Gripen NG single-engine light combat planes for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
What has led to the possibility of Gripen being back on the circuit is the fact that while the government has ordered 36 Rafales from French Dassault Aviation, outside the tender for the 126 MMRCA tender, Parrikar has been saying that the IAF may get low-end, light combat planes to replace its MiG-21 fighters.
Meanwhile, MoD’s official spokesperson Sitanshu Kar tweeted: “Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist to visit #HAL and #BEL in Bengaluru during his visit to India next week.”
Ahead of President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Sweden last week, secretary (West), ministry of external affairs, Navtej Sarna, had told mediapersons that “Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, would be in India for two days beginning June 10 during which he would explore the possibility of engaging with New Delhi in the defence sector.”
With changed FDI rules and the ‘Make in India’ campaign, it is expected that the Swedish government would look at India as a manufacturing base, Sarna said.
During Mukherjee’s recent visit to Stockholm, the Swedish government had discussed the possibility of Gripen filling the gap in the IAF’s depleting fleet strength, owing to plans to phase out MiG-21s from 12 combat squadrons beginning 2016-17. Both countries have decided to restart the bilateral strategic dialogue after four years, besides finding ways for investment by the Nordic country in India’s defence sector under ‘Make in India’.