New Delhi: A day after the BJP claimed the Rafale aircraft deal with France has been "finalised" at USD 8.8 billion (Rs 59,000 crore), Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Thursday that it is not complete as yet but at an "advanced stage" and the intention is to "close it quite soon".
In a lighter vein, he told reporters that the BJP tweet only indicates that journalists write stories very convincingly.
BJP had on Wednesday tweeted a graphic, saying that the Rafale combat aircraft deal has been "finalised" and the Narendra Modi government had saved over Rs 21,000 crore in the "re-negotiation" with the French government.
Defence Ministry sources had earlier said the deal was at an advanced stage and both India and France had narrowed down their differences over the pricing issue.
"I can only tell you this much that while the deal is in quite an advanced stage, and we intent to close it quite soon, I still can't say that negotiations are totally cleared until we sign the deal or at least the deal is forwarded to the Cabinet for approval," Parrikar told reporters.
The deal is expected to be finalised by May end. India has been bargaining hard with France over the pricing of the 36 fighter planes, a deal that was announced first by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015.
The cost of the 36 Rafales, as per the earlier tender while keeping the cost escalation into account, comes to around Rs 65,000 crore.
India has been bargaining for a price that is less than eight billion Euro (Rs 59,000 crore).
"The deal to buy 36 state-of-the-art Rafale aircraft from France at 12 billion dollar (Rs 80000 crore) was renegotiated and finalised at 8.8 billion dollar (around Rs 59000 crore)," the BJP tweet had said.
The government "saved" public money and the deal resulted in gain of "technological knowledge" and "strengthening the air power to defend the border", it had said.