Dassault Aviation SA, the French maker of Rafale fighter jets, may build its business aircraft in India, in a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to encourage local manufacturing. Building the Falcon 2000 planes in India would cut costs while ensuring quality and execution that meets standards, Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier said in an interview on the sidelines of the National Business Aviation Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas. The move will also give the company a competitive edge, he said, without elaborating. “We really want to do something which is a real industrial cooperation in India,” Trappier said. “We are starting a big partnership.” The Paris-based company wants to deepen its ties with the South Asian country after it bid for a defense contract worth $11 billion to supply 126 Rafale aircraft and eventually won an order for only 36 planes last year. India had initially agreed to buy all the 126 jets under a long-delayed deal, even mandating Dassault to build some of them locally.
Should Dassault start manufacturing the Falcon 2000 locally, it would provide a fillip to Modi’s flagship “Make in India” program that aims to lure foreign companies and create Indian jobs, one of his key campaign platforms. Lagging behind China in manufacturing for decades, the $2.3 trillion economy is trying to narrow the gap with its giant neighbor, which successfully tested its first home-made commercial passenger jet this year. After Modi decided to opt for fewer Rafale jets from Dassault in 2016 — all of them imports — the main opposition Congress party criticized his move saying his call for “Make in India” sounded hollow.