NEW DELHI — India has begun discreet negotiations with France for the purchase of 31 grounded strike fighters previously used by the French Air Force.

The French government made the offer of sale for the Jaguar fighters about six months ago, and India is actively pursuing the opportunity, according to a top Indian Ministry of Defence official.

The offer will be actively discussed during an official visit to France July 17-20 of India's Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, the MoD official noted.

The government official refused to comment on the price offered by France for the Jaguar fighters, but did say India is actively considering acquiring them after proper refurbishment.

During his visit, Dhanoa will inspect the license production of Rafale aircraft for India at Dassault Aviation manufacturing facilities and will fly a sortie in a Rafale aircraft.

The two countries signed a €7.8 billion (U.S. $8.9 billion) intergovernmental agreement on Sept. 23, 2016, under which 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly-away condition will be procured from Dassault Aviation for the Indian Air Force.

Per the contract, France will invest 30 percent of the €7.8 billion in India's military aeronautics-related research programs and 20 percent into the local production of Rafale components to fulfill the mandatory offsets under the deal.

India will receive the first six Rafale aircrafts in September 2019, and delivery of all 36 fighters will be completed by the end of 2022. Dassault Aviation will also make specific changes for India and mount new-generation Meteor and Scalp missiles.

Negotiations for the Rafale deal began immediately after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in April 2015 in Paris his wish to buy the fighters for the Indian Air Force in fly-away condition.

Of the €7.8 billion, the platform costs approximately €3.42 billion; another €1.8 billion is for infrastructure and support supplies; €1.7 billion will be spent to meet India-specific changes to the aircraft; €710 million is for the additional weapons package; and €353 million is the cost of performance-based logistics support.

Meanwhile, India's state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is undertaking the modernization process of Jaguar DARIN III twin-seat aircraft. So far, three upgraded Jaguar DARIN III prototypes have been developed and about 60 Jaguar aircraft will be modernized in three years' time, which will give operational life to the aircraft for another 20 years.

HAL has built 120 Jaguar deep-penetration strike aircraft under technology transfer from BAE Systems of the United Kingdom.

About a decade ago, India was negotiating the purchase of 12 used Mirage 2000-5 aircraft from Qatar and 40 Mirage 2000 variants including Mirage 2000-9 from the United Arab Emirates, but negotiations failed over the price.

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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