New Delhi, April 21 :  A day after the BJP’s claim that the Rafale fighter jets deal has been finalised for $8.8 billion, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Thursday the deal has not been finalised yet but may be closed soon.  Asked if a final agreement has been reached on the price for buying 36 Rafale jets from France, the minister said: “I can only tell that the deal is in a quite advanced stage.”  “We intend to close it quite soon. But we can’t say the negotiations are over until we sign it (agreement) or it is cleared by the cabinet,” Parrikar told reporters on the sidelines of the Naval Commanders’ Conference here. (Also Read: India attaches highest priority to ties with China: Manohar Parrikar ) Also Read - On Call, PM Modi, Donald Trump Discuss Ladakh Standoff, Ongoing Protests in US, G-7 Summit

The minister was asked about posts by the Bharatiya Janata Party on its Facebook page and Twitter handle, which said the deal had been finalised for $8.8 billion.  An image posted on the BJP Facebook page said the Narendra Modi government “saved 3.2 billion dollars (Rs.21,000 crore) out of the 12 billion dollars (Rs.80,000 crore) deal”.  On a lighter note, Parrikar said the BJP might have believed the media reports on the final price.  In 2012, India decided to ink the deal for 126 Rafale jets.  As the deal could not be worked out, another deal for purchasing 36 Rafale combat jets in fly-away condition was inked during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France in April last year. Also Read - Coronavirus in Karnataka: Health Minister Sriramulu Attends Procession, Social Distancing Norms Flouted | Watch

Defence ministry sources say attempts had been on to bring the price down to under 8 billion Euros or around Rs.60,000 crore.  The Indian Air Force at present has 33 operational squadrons, as against a sanctioned strength of 39.5.  The IAF is also eagerly awaiting the delivery of its first squadron of indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft.